Saturday, 14 June 2008

#17 - Appointment With F.E.A.R

My first thought on realising Appointment With F.E.A.R was tonight's book was, 'what, another sci-fi one?' Not that that's a bad thing, but I seriously didn't remember there being this many in the series - and that's the last time I'll say that, honest!

Turns out AWF has nothing to do with space and everything to do with Batman, Superman, Spiderman, you name it, if it was from Marvel or DC, it's in here somewhere in some form. At first I was suspicious, thinking it wasn't really going to work in the FF format, but I was wrong. Totally wrong. I really enjoyed this book.

You're a superhero called the Silver Crusader, at least your secret identity is, and you look after Titan City, in much the same way a certain Mr Kent (namechecked in the first paragraph as 'Clark St') looks after a certain imaginatively named metropolis. A group of super-villians are going to be meeting in Titan City in the near future, and it's your job to work out where and when, and arrest them all.

Being a superhero, you get to choose a superpower - I chose PSI Powers, which basically sounded like Jedi mind trick powers.

You wear a 'crimewatch' which allows the cops to alert you of anything they discover, or harass you with annoying side quests catching pickpockets and petty crims. Rolling an average 9/18/12 (if you don't know what those mean by now, start again) I figured I'd better be pretty direct. From the very start of the book though, I knew this wasn't going to be easy. Within five minutes I'd been in a street brawl, beenpushed into a pile of dog 'sidewalk deposits', learned of a gang with the comical (chemical?) name, the Alchemists and saved a family from a burning car.

I soon learned of a potential explosion at the chemistry labs of a nearby university, so decided to check it out. On the way, someone shouted they were being robbed; this town needed more than a single, lone superhero. Anyway, I got to the uni just in time to throw the almost-exploded concoction out the window, unfortunately onto a bunch of students outside. Oops. My hero points went into the negative, and a I briefly considered a career as an anti-hero, but realised the 440 paragraphs that make up AWF probably wouldn't allow for so much freedom!

But Steve Jackson did an excellent job of giving the book a sense of freedom regardless. There were always chances to directly investigate crime, go home and relax, or check out a range of more leisurely activities, some of which sounded completely out of place in a FF gamebook, and showed just how long ago this series was published: I went to check out a concert by Georgie Boy and the Vulture Club, only to find the gig cancelled due to the lead singer's facial dermatitis.

Another day I had the choice to go visit my grandma. Even I realised I had better things to do with my character's time, not to mention my own!

One day, late for work again, i decided to buy my boss a gift to say sorry, and went to the games section of a bookstore, planning (apparently) to buy him a Dungeons and Dragons set - nice to see Jackson had no rivalry with the better-known opposition! It was no game though (at least in-game (alright, enough with the meta and embedded brackets!)) when four fire men turned up - no, not the type in helmets carrying hoses, the type made of fire.

I was down to a single stamina point after that fight, and then the book told me I tied them up with a rope. Eh? Really? I didn't realise bookstores carried rope made of, um, fire-retardant... stuff. Anyway...

I turned down the chance to see Andrew Lloyd-Webber's production Rats, instead racing home, trying not to injure myself in the slightest - imagine how lame a superhero I'd be if I was killed by tripping over or something and losing my last stamina point.

So the next day I had the option of either attending the arrival of the president, or a trade show entitled 'Home Appliances of the Future'. Hmmm... I checked out the convoy, of course, and a guy tried to assassinate the president. I captured him, he got a shot off, but it turns out the pres was killed by someone else entirely - perhaps on a grassy knoll? The book doesn't say, haha.

Now, here is where something went kind of wrong. A clever part of AWF is the way Steve Jackson incorporated parts where you had to know certain information to know what page to turn to, without being given the options in the text - kind of like Warlock Of Firetop Mountain's keys, except there were several places in AWF where certain numbers were needed.

So I'm asked if I know the street and avenue numbers of the corner where the meeting is to take place, to add them together and go from there, as it's the day of the meeting. Alright, I had the definite avenue number, and a street number... wasn't sure if it was right, but when I turned to the page in question and it said, 'Your information was correct', I thought, yay! I captured the Alchemists, and thought, wow, I must be close... until I ended up back at my apartment, seemingly unconcerned I'd missed the meeting, and relaxed, planning not to be late for work the next day.

I'd read this paragraph already! It seems the avenue and street numbers I'd added up were used in a different situation entirely, it just seemed to slot in to where I was at the time.

So damn, I suppose I failed! Was enjoying it otherwise. Despite the apparent several different ways the book can go, as each superpower has a different ending, and the ingenuous way Jackson made the book almost uncheatable, the dated references and gimmicky, fun tone don't lend the book classic status. Without these though, it would have been a lot less fun! I suppose it's kind of like a candy FF book - enjoyable, clever, funny, but you can see through it and it's pretty flimsy really. Good though.

My cover is the one above: funny to think the image was also used on the new printings, as it's pretty of-its-time, really.

Last things: what's with the reference on paragraph 72 to the 'muscle bound gigolos'? Has the meaning of gigolos changed since 1985? And hey, I have some readers now, haha, wooo. I better keep up the quality!


Paltogue said...

Great reviews Dan, I've enjoyed reading them a lot. Keep 'em coming!

Gamebook Fanatic said...

I had lost of fun with this book. Only minor drawback I think is that the Hero points system doesn't seem to mean anything. It's almost like the way you hoard gold pieces in some of the other FF books. They don't seem to have much practical uses, and are only there to "keep score" or something.

I'm thinking maybe there should be a rule where if your Hero points go down to negative you lose your superpowers.....until you get it back up again. That means you at least have to make some effort of keeping it up. Not the best solution, I know, but I'm just saying they should have done something with the Hero point system.

Aussiesmurf said...

The Hero points bugged me too - there was no real way of 'measuring' them, particularly when the final success didn't give you too many - it was possible to save the President and overall get more hero points than in you stopped FEAR!

This book really does have four endings and four 'correct routes' - the meeting is a four different places depending on which power you choose at the start - definitely the best replayability of any of the FF books.

One of my favourites (can't you tell?).

strom-z said...

maybe the most fun FF out there so therefore one of my faves. and yes, very nice replay value.

Anonymous said...

I've completed AWF before. I started the game with Super Strength. I got the date of the meeting from The Tormentor (the date is 27th, this Monday). Then I received the time of the meeting from the Scarlet Prankster (the time is 9 a.m.). Then finally, I got the Circuit Jammer in Murdock Laboratories by defeating Sidney Knox. During the day of the meeting, I went to Xavier Hangar in Parker Airport. I added the date and time with the number of the reference I was on and the result was paragraph 430. Using Super Strength, I flew to the executive jet and used my Circuit Jammer on the Cyborg. With the Cyborg now weakened, I defeated him easily, let the police arrest him and his men, and earned 10 Hero Points for my victory!