Saturday, 21 June 2008

#18 - Rebel Planet

You know what I'm thinking, but I promised I wouldn't mention it anymore...

In book 18, Rebel Planet, you are humanity's last hope - to cut a long story, and long introduction to the book short, humans have been enslaved across their small ex-galactic empire of sorts (remember that phrase, I'll be coming back to it) by an alien race intent on ruling the galaxy, and you have to infiltrate their home planet and destroy the central computer which controls the aliens' hive mind.

The rebels (another phrase to come back to) are scattered and paranoid, rightly so having been infiltrated by the enemy, a race known as the Arcadians. They outlawed Esperanto across the former Earth empire, which is awesome for me, as I don't speak it.

Okay, I'll stop being obtuse with the references - you're a Jedi, basically, out to destroy the enemy's secret weapon, you have a 'laser sword' and martial arts knowledge, but without the mind tricks (that failed me in the last quest anyway). It's like Star Wars, but the introduction tries to play it down by saying there isn't much fighting - so it's Attack of the Clones, then? It lied, by the way, and even the back cover described the mission as 'foolhardy' - it's as if the copywriters weren't on the same page as the author.

Anyway, Rebel Planet is different to even the other space-based FF books; firstly, the main part of your mission - finding three parts to a code number - isn't dealt with in a 'hey, you made it this far, here's the conveniently-three-digit pass number, you'll need to add it/subtract if from the others and turn to that page to win' kind of way. You need to actually study pictures and poems and whatnot to get the numbers, which is cool in a way, even if the solutions might not be entirely logical.

Onto my adventure! After taking off, undercover as a merchant, I was approached by an enemy ship which I correctly guessed to be my escort. Actually, I initially decided screw it, I rolled 10/24/12, I'm gonna stand up to it, not run away! Turns out acting ballsy gets you places you wouldn't expect in Rebel Planet. Once on the first planet, I decided to lax at the hotel, not that I didn't get enough of that in Appointment With F.E.A.R, but hey. The receptionist there is asleep, and on trying to wake him, I discover he is dead. D'oh. After dispatching the guards who didn't hesitate to attack me, I picked up and pocketed a button with a picture of an eagle holding a scroll, cause you know, of the six items I'm allowed to carry at one time in this adventure, a button absolutely counted as one. I had a strange feeling perhaps this was where FF gamebooks stopped letting you carry any old thing without consequence, and knew it later on when at customs I was pulled up for having an infra red scanner - fortunately, I didn't also have a rope, so they didn't think it too suspicious. I'm not sure what you could build using a rope and an infra red scanner that would arouse suspicion, I'm not McGyver.

I soon find the bar, Fission Chips, though not before being distracted by a theatre playing a '20th century comedy' called Star Trek. I'm assuming it was Star Trek IV. This bar is where I'm meant to meet my contact, but instead some damn dirty humans ambushed me, and I quickly dispatched both with my knowledge of pressure points, killing them in a blow each. Awesome.

Anyway, I went back, got in simply by saying I was from Earth (I told you just being upfront and ballsy gets you places in this book). At the bar, I bought some 'alcoholic mouthwash' for 10 credits. In this book, if you can't ever afford to pay for something, your mission is over, according to the instructions; imagine if my quest ended because I couldn't afford alcoholic mouthwash. I'm sure there's a movie coming out soon which deals in similar subject matter I wouldn't mind seeing...

So I eventually made contact with the underground, where we each pussyfooted around each other, suspicious of course, but eventually I proved to them I was genuine by refusing to kill someone they asked me to - once again, standing up and standing proud.

Onto the next planet, and I have the choice of staying at swanky hotel the Zodiac, or a complete, cheap dive, Porky's. No-brainer, huh? Porky himself tells me half the buildings in the city were destroyed by the 'Street Fighter', which is used to break up student protests. I suspect there's a link between the student protests and the underground movement - why? Because the book gives me the option of going to the university. On my first visit, I get into a fight with some louts in the Arts faculty, grab some files, and get rejected by a bunch of science nerds (oh how I long for the medieval Allansia at this point). On the way back to Porky's I'm forced to fight the Street Fighter, which is some kind of giant ground-punching machine. Hmmm. It's a tough fight - this thing reduces your stamina more each attack round that passes by!

On getting back to Porky's, he's acting an asshole and wants to charge me to use his computer. Fuck it, I act ballsy again, but this time get into a fight. The poor, fat (why'd you think he's called Porky?) guy is no match for my awesomeness, and I get free access to his internets.

Turns out my contact is in the Arts faculty at uni, damn it! I was just there. I went back, he wasn't there, but apparently left a clue to three of the digits in the password on his desk - the picture provided conveniently included half the Roman numerals in existence, damn it! Then I was arrested, damn it!

And sentenced to death. Hmmmm. Perhaps this was the time to stop acting ballsy, and try and find a sneaky way out... They confiscated all my stuff, including my awesome eagle-holding-a-scroll button, but somehow missed my money belt - funny, cause I pictured that as a bum-bag, not something you could ever miss on anyone, really (wow, Wikipedia - are they really making a comeback?)

I spill to the guard, keeping back some of my info, and I'm sentenced to fight some monsters, instead of death. A slower death, if you will. The monsters aren't that hard though, so like a future Maximus I'm let go, and onto the next planet it is.

Here, I quickly find a couple of people, one of whom is the leader. Unfortunately, I don't have the password they are looking for, so they won't tell me the rest of the code, and my mission is over. No option to torture the jebus out of them, nothing. Grrr.

Okay, I'm not telling the whole truth here. Several times throughout Rebel Planet i was faced with 50/50 options, one of which resulted in instant death, increasingly so as the adventure developed. They were incredibly frustrating, and I ignored them for the most part, deciding it was not fair to reduce the chances of completing this book by 50% to 25% to 12.5% and so on, often within the range of two or three pages. If there's knowledge gained earlier in the book that can help you, for sure, but not rubbish like 'left door or right door? East or west? One or two?'

If the book wasn't so enjoyable, I probably wouldn't have bothered though! Rebel Planet, apart from the ridiculous number of instant deaths (at least on the path I travelled) at least seems really well thought out and engrossing. You can't rely on all aliens=bad, all humans=good; there are traitors amongst people and arty, liberal (south) Arcadians. The merchant cover is one often used in FF gamebooks, but here it works well - probably because the set up is so good, to be honest. Long, but it really sets the scene.

Once we're back in Allansia, I promise to start abiding by the instant death rules - even if a slight cheat here and there isn't helping me at all in space!


Deb Clague said...

Always watch out for the Arts students. They be shady.

I, too, didn't realize how many sci-fi books were in the FF series. They're not my favorite, but I like reading your reviews. Keep it up! : )

Aussiesmurf said...

I loved the world-building in this book, and may have played it more than many others. Its also true that the chances of getting each part of the code diminish with each of the three planets, making you feel like you are achieving something.

I was annoyed by the fact that, even after getting into the computer building, there was a secondary piece of information that you needed (and then needed to select the correct item) or else it was GAME OVER.

Still, one of the best gamebooks, and certainly one that placed a premium on thinking over mindless dice-rolling.