Friday, 26 July 2013

Round 2: House of Hell

The instructions to this example of Steve Jackson sadism are headed 'HOW TO SURVIVE THE HOUSE OF HELL'. To mangle a phrase from a popular movie that came out the year before, the only surviving move is not to play.

I wrote this phrase before giving House of Hell a second go, in anticipation I would fail. I planned to close with it, but the fact I wrote it before playing about sums up this book's reputation.

So I didn't bother playing it.

At least until the site hosting this image went bankrupt and closed.

Ha, just kidding. Of course I played it. But first, let me update the introduction to this particular tale to the two-thousand-and-teens (do we have a proper name for this decade yet?).

The rain spatters the windscreen relentlessly. You can see no more than a watery gloom as you strain forwards over the steering wheel to see the road ahead. Although the wipers flap valiantly, they are fighting a losing battle as the rain drives harder and harder. If only you'd take the car salesman's advice and shelled out for the hydrophobic windscreen coating. Your foot eases off the accelerator; the headlights struggle to light up the road. That's the last time you pay the mechanic in bitcoins.

Damn! You curse Apple Maps for sending you off along this bumpy track. Probably they meant the second turning on the left - or even a right turning. The old fool. Why didn't you just use Google?

But what nonsense is this? So you've taken a wrong turn and got caught in a downpour in the night. The rain will ease off soon - it can't possibly keep up this deluge for long. Unless that's how climate change works? You're not sure, so decide to ask Siri. Siri, does climate... WATCH OUT!

You spin the wheel frantically to the left to avoid the figure who, from nowhere, shows up in the headlights. The car bumps and jolts -but pleasantly so, thanks to advances in hydraulics and engineering - as it bounces over the rocky roadside and thumps into a ditch.

You are unhurt, but shaken. Then you remember what has happened. The body! You must have hit the figure which appeared - there was no way you could have avoided him, another victim of texting-while-jaywalking.

You spring out of the car, praying he is still alive and that he hasn't put a dent in your Prius. Your clothes soak up the rain as you hobble back to the road. It's hard to see at the best of times when you're wearing Google Glass, but in the darkness it is difficult to see anything. But there is no sign of a body!

You consider the situation. Are you certain that it was someone, and not the work of Weta Workshop or Industrial Light & Magic? Yes. You can remember the arms held up in fright as the car collided, and the look of anguish on his face. There was something familiar about that face. An old man, with white hair, a robe, pointy hat, said something about you not passing...

Your heart leaps: no, impossible! With a shiver of fear you race back into the car, jump inside, force the key into the ignition and twist if violently! Unfortunately the battery is dead. Your car is not budging from the ditch tonight.

Your situation is hopeless. How can you ask your Facebook friends for help? As if in answer, a light appears in the distance. Someone has switched on a 56-inch HDTV in a house nearby! What a stroke of luck! The new seasons of Game of Thrones premieres tonight, you thought you were going to miss it, for sure. 

You slam the door, take a quick Instagram of the car to upload when you're back in cellphone range and set off for the house. A flash of lightning lights it up clearly for you but, in your preoccupation with Angry Birds: Star Wars, the warning from above is wasted on you. The house is old and in a shocking state of repair. The satellite dish on the roof doesn't even appear to be plugged in.

As you climb the steps to the front door, little do you realise what fate has in store for you - they only have dial-up internet.

So, where did I go so wrong last time? Ah, the white wine. Won't drink it this time. Red it is! Now I have to choose between lamb and duck... sticking with red, I eat the lamb. The Earl of Drumer (I know an anagram when I see one...) tells me about his family, then offers me cheese, coffee and brandy... I pass on the brandy, and all seems good.

But it's not, of course. I pass out, wake in a room with my feet bound - but not my hands. It seems Mr Murder isn't as clever as he is creepy.

I escape, run down a random hall - I can't use my previous go at the book as a guide not what to do, 'cause it's already going better, I guess.

Came across a door with the word 'Azazel' written on it. Now, pretending it's 2013 again, Wikipedia suggests I don't want to open that door.

"What do you mean, 'House of Hell? This isn't a goat, it's a... okay, you got me, this is a 'House of Hell."

The next door has the name Erasmus on it, which sounds far more hospitable. Of course, it's locked. 

"Dear diary. Azazel was a total dick today, wandering the halls half-naked, and don't get me started on that stinking pet of his..."

Moving on, I'm soon hit on by some hot angel lady who, in an exquisite piece of plot exposition, tells me Mr Murder is in fact intent on murdering me -shock! horror! - in some kind of Satanic ritual. I need to find the 'Kris knife' in order to defeat him, but before she can tell me where it is that is in this house and not southeast Asia, she's conveniently finished off by a pair of ghost dogs. 

The next door I try is labelled 'Mephisto'. In it, there's "nothing unusual" but in a fashion more associated with Ian Livingstone than Jackson, there's also a piece of frayed, knotted rope. I take it, in case Steve Jackson's idea of hell includes tug-of-war.

A few rooms later - including a bait-and-switch Jackson pulls using the name of Balthus Dire and a close encounter with a vampire (not to mention the most useful kitchen in all of FF, containing not just garlic but a meat cleaver), I'm killed by repeated exposure to scary shit - the final straw being a ghoul. 

Just as well I did that painfully wrong rewrite of the intro, or this could have been again the shortest entry in Fighting Dantasy history.