Saturday, 26 April 2008

#10 - House of Hell

This is the only Fighting Fantasy gamebook to be set in modern times, at least in the mid '80s when it was published. Your car breaks down on a stormy night, and the only house in walking distance is the titular House of Hell - only this time it's not populated by Transylvanian cross-dressers, instead it's full of demons and ghosts and strange weirdos of all sorts (who, as far as I know, all keep their clothes on).

Oddly enough, despite its modern setting, or perhaps because of it, the entire premise is now badly dated - we'd now have a cellphone handy, right? Or could wave down somebody who did, surely.

Anyway, I wandered up to the door, used the knocker, and a butler arrived. He told me the Master was 'expecting' me, and we both went inside. The book doesn't give the option to query this rather strange introduction, so ah well. Lets assume the '80s were a simpler, more innocent time.

I made some small talk with the master, then laid into his white wine - which turned out to be laced with the strongest aspirin known to man - once again, the '80s must've been a simpler, more innocent time, as one hit was enough to knock me cold. Is there pseudoephedrine in aspirin?

Tied up upon awaking, I broke a window and used the shards to cut myself free, and wandered into the hallway. The doors all had plaques on them reading things like 'Balthus Room' and 'Diabolus Room', nto particularly inviting, so I wandered through hallways and whatnot before coming across the front door.

Woah, easiest FF book ever, I thought.

I opened it, and saw a hideous monster that looked like a hippy crossed with a goat-headed demon thing, and almost frightened myself to death. That's something this book has that other FF books don't - a fear score. My ability to absorb fear was minuscule, another reason I stayed clear of doors as often as possible. There's this pic in The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain that always used to freak the crap out of me in real life, let alone the game. I can't find it on Google images, but trust me, this aged old man leaping at you carrying a club or something is an image I'll never forget.

I ran away, and was forced to choose between two doors - one was locked, so no longer with even the hint of a choice, I entered the room... and found a kitchen, with some keys. Sweet! I grabbed the keys, and got burned, literally. They were red hot! The noise created when I dropped said burning keys attracted some 'mysterious friends' of the Master, who weren't so mysterious as evil. They dragged me down into a dungeon of sorts, where ended my adventure.

The very first door I tried.

Sorry I can't report too much more on House of Hell... it seemed interesting, if a little dependent on just choosing the right doors - particularly with a low fear score like mine. I was four sevenths of the way to being frightened to death before I even opened a single door! Another site suggests the book is so difficult, some parts which lead to certain death are required to go down in order to find out information you need later on in a successful attempt. Hmmm. Others suggest it's just really, really hard and requires an almost perfect run of events. Hmmm.

Seems interesting though, I'd recommend giving it a go, but don't drink the white wine. I think.

My version is as above, but hellishly worn - it seems an entire generation of people have tried it out, haha. It has a stamp for Swanson School Library inside. I wonder why they got rid of it?


Deb Clague said...

This is my favorite FF book. Reading it late at night (preferably a rainy night) never fails to scare the heck out of me. You must not have looked out the window with the guy hanging from the copy has this but I believe it was edited out of later versions. For a book aimed at young adults, it was pretty disturbing. That's the one frightening image I still think of as an adult. Heebie-jeebies indeed.

Ed said...

The image edited out of later versions was of an impending human sacrifice.

There is no way to succeed at House of Hell with a Fear score of 7, and you have to borderline cheat to succeed if your Fear is 8. And if you play strictly by the rules, the final battle is very nasty indeed.

Dan said...

I hate it when its actually impossible to win based on the dice. Wasting time, really!

Anonymous said...

i got a bit further than you, but then i got scared and then killed by an invisible person who 'squeezed my heart till it popped'.

Gamebook Fanatic said...

Yeah, it's just so easy to take the bait and think that you might just win by walking out the front door, isn't it? ;) I did the exact same thing the first time I played it, even though deep down I knew it was too easy.

And yes, the Fear stat is rather harsh for this adventure. Not only does it make it impossible to win with low Fear stat, but it makes it hard for you to experiment and look for clues, because you never know if the next door you open might contain something that scare you to death on sight. With a Fear score of 9 you may win, but to stray even slightly and open the wrong door, even on the true path, may get you killed by fear. Most of Steve Jackson's book usually aren't that demanding on your stats, but this one is an exception.

Shon Richards said...

As a kid I couldn't make it through this book at all. It is the only FF book that I sat down and reversed engineered to figure out the right way to go. On the other hand, it used to scare the bejesus out of me when I first read it and it's still darn disturbing now.

LiquidShaDow said...

As a kid, this book freaked me out to a certain extent, yet the fear factor was seductively luring me back into the words to continue.

Aussiesmurf said...

This book certainly had the 'wow' factor for a young reader, and the whole 'human sacrifice / Satanism' angle was amazing.

I remember one part where you get captured and have a choice which cage to go into. You die in both options, and the book gets to describe in excruciating detail how your death varies depending on which cage you picked!

I thought the book played completely 'fair' so to speak, in that the 'true' path is perfectly possible to find with only a minimum of battles, although the last one is trouble.

One silly thing is that the last battle says "add XX Skill if you have the Kris knife" when if you didn't have the knife you wouldn't have made it that far, anyway?

A fantastic book, and in the top 3 of FF books for mine.

foadiron said...

My favourite Jackson book and one of the best FF books over all. It's a pity you didn't give it another try or two because it really has some very nice atmosphere that a lot of the other books certainly don't. It's also unique because, as you said, it's the only day modern day FF that there's ever been.