Sunday, October 20, 2013

Necklace of Skulls review

Necklace of Skulls is an excellent mold breaking gamebook from Dave Morris where your hero is in the Maya who sets out to avenge their twin brother after he went to Visit an evil wizard known as the Necklace
of Skulls.

The gamebook places you in a world deeply steeped in myth and magic - you can travel through the underworld, fight a hydra, meet a god and even become immortal (which in game terms, means that you can only die in a sudden death paragraph.  Life loss no longer means anything.  And this is not even a trap where you have to choose between this and winning.  You can become immortal AND win at the end too).

The gameplay depends on you choosing skills.  There are no random elements, so no dice to roll and no frustrating random deaths.  The skills are all balanced and skills that might not seems so powerful, such as etiquette, folklore and cunning are just as useful as the more powerful skills such as magic and swordplay.

As well as the fantastic encounters, you also get to explore the culture that you live in - for example, you could learn a sacred game which will come in very handy later on in the book.

The book culminates in visiting the city of Necklace of Skulls where you have to overcome various challenges before you see him.  Then you have to take part in the sacred game in order to get your brother back and destroy the Necklace of Skulls himself.

The game itself is challenging but the choices are logical. It also has several options and uses of skills that may not be the obvious ones to take, but Dave Morris has some good explanations as to why they work.

As with a lot of his gamebooks, Necklace of Skulls has the feel that you are living in a world of myth and
legend that you get to explore.  The gameplay is balanced and there are multiple paths through the book that, along with the skill choices, enhance the replayability of the book.  Buy this unique treasure among the world of gamebooks.

You can buy Necklace of Skulls as a paperback for £6.99 or as a Kindle ebook for £2.99.  Also, have a look at the other books available in the Critical IF series.


  1. Another great review! Thanks, Stuart. I don't have much to add to what you've said except that I have a special fondness for this book because I researched it while on honeymoon. Roz and I must've climbed just about every pyramid in the Yucatan, but the most amazing moment was going down into the tomb of Pacal the Great in Palenque - a scene that makes it into the book almost unchanged. (Except that I didn't see his ghost.)

    1. Hi Dave,
      I have a colleague with your same name: he was very surprised to discover that he's a published author without even knowing! :-D

    2. It's a very common name. There's also a David Morris who did a lot of high-profile environmental agitation, with the result that I am often pulled over for a grilling by security when I fly. Maybe they have got it into their heads that I'm a secret member of al-Qaeda or something!

  2. I played through a library copy of Necklace of Skulls, ooh... maybe twenty years ago? I nonetheless remember much of it quite vividly, probably because I read through it over and over in the brief time it was in my possession. Being stripped of your 'Magic' skill - only to find a way to get it back again. A bouncy ball made of hydra's blood. And becoming immortal! 'Just scratch that whole Life Points box off the character sheet - you won't need it anymore' (or words to that effect). Phenomenal.

    Dave Morris was also the name of my high-school geography teacher. Is he also the environmental agitator? I doubt it - he seemed kind of placid for that. But you never know what hobbies folks get into, when they hit retirement age.

  3. Seems a pretty interesting gameplay story. I remember playing Wolfenstein which also has the element of magic and witchcraft in it.

  4. Hi there,
    hope you can revisit this great Mayan adventure gamebook with the Cubus Games adaptation, available on AppStore and GooglePlay in November 13th!

    Gamebook'em all!

    More info: