Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Bargain at the Borders

With my local Borders store closing down recently I managed to snag some pretty good discounts on a number of books, then went and wasted $20 during a minor unrelated accident while opening a brand new USB cable... I sort of cut through the wire while opening the packaging? *sigh* Finesse really isn't my thing. Anyway I thought I'd share my thoughts on a few of the items I got...


VAN VON HUNTER
Created by Mike Schwark & Ron Kaulfersh this comedy manga is set mostly in the fantasy style kingdom of Dikay which follows the adventures of the titular character Van Von Hunter on his quests to defeat evil stuff. I must admit I am a bit of a VVH fan having followed their online comic while it was still being updated. Sadly while their site is still there, it looks like it hasn't been updated in years.

The art is well drawn, has quite likable characters, and pretty funny jokes when they stick to their original content (a number of parodies make appearances and not all of them do so well). Story wise what I've seen runs pretty shallow but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Definitely works for light and entertaining reading aimed at the PG anime watching or manga reading audience. If you are not sure if this is for you, just browse through the pages they do have online and you will quickly find out as the books are in mostly the same vein (though I think some characters are missing between the web and manga version).


FIGHTING FANTASY BOOKS (overall)
An inbetween from the old choose your own adventure stories and D&D, these books let the reader (and the luck of the dice) decide how the story unfolds. From what I've seen they are well written and have nice illustrations every now and then. The player character has three simplified stats: "Skill" which is your character's fighting and physical prowess, "Stamina" which is your HP or life, and "Luck" which is tested often and is always running out! Other than that you have a backpack of equipment and a very good chance of having many, many unhappy endings! :P

You will really need a paper and pencil, eraser (or pen and lots of papers) and a few hours to sit through some of these. Though the 2 six sided dice aren't required I would strongly recommend them.

These are the books I have tried...

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain
A good introduction to the series I thought. The monsters weren't too tough, common sense usually prevailed, and you got ample opportunity to heal up in various "rest" rooms. My main gripe with it was that the deeper part of the dungeon is a pretty complex maze that takes you around in circles, and by the time I found the exit most of the initial enjoyment I had was well and truly sapped away making what were supposed to be epic boss fights afterwards feel more like annoying "ahhh get it over with already" moments. My end result was I killed the warlock but was short one key of opening his treasure box which I felt was a just reward for an idiot whose sole purpose in entering the dungeon in the first place was greed. Its not like the warlock or any of the denizens in there were bothering anyone which kinda makes the player character the antagonist in the whole thing.

Deathtrap Dungeon
The player character being an idiot continues in this book, the premise being that some psycho decided to build this horrible place and hold a tournament to see who could be the first one to solve it and ofcourse because NO-ONE has ever escaped alive, you decide it would be an awesome idea to give it a try. :P

The dungeon itself is aptly named and a lot harder than Firetop Mountain with many sudden death areas which you can only guess your way past. As if that wasn't bad enough, the enemies in here are quite more challenging to beat and I didn't actually manage to find ANY rest points which lead to the occasional combat death too (bring the healing potion, you'll need it). The dungeon also features a very annoying dwarf who I greatly enjoyed killing and a more annoying gnome wizard boss whom you cannot even fight. My end results either resulted in my varied gruesome deaths to insta-kill sections, a few combat deaths, but more often than not being trapped in the dungeon forever since I failed to find a required item.



There was a bit of this going on too:

StormSlayer
My current favourite. This sees the player character as a seasoned hero and actually starts with the main bad guy stirring up trouble and threatening all of the nearby lands, causing you to go into action. This book has a few more rules than the others and is about twice the thickness as you are not "stuck" in one large maze but instead can travel around quite a fair bit which leads to a longer playing time. It also gets rid of the "rest areas" rule which works well with its "open" travel. Insta-death sections are few and far between, often giving you the chance to save yourself before hitting a game over. It also adds some timed sections which I felt was a good addition. Lastly the final boss fight is quite epic and fun too and thanks to good luck I finished this one properly, saving the day and all that.

If you'd like to try your hand at any of these or one of the many I don't have, visit www.fightingfantasy.com and have a look. :)

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