Sunday, February 16, 2014

What do you want in a gamebook review?

Hello, gamebookers.  I hope you are well.  Since it was Valentine's day a couple of days ago, I thought that I might show you some love by producing another blog post.

Actually, I would like to ask you something.  I'm writing quite a few news articles and reviews for Fighting Fantazine, and what I want to make sure that I do is transmit all the information that you find pertinent in those articles, and give you a very good idea about whether you want to buy something or not.  And for that reason, I want to know from you that I am doing so, and how I can improve.  So here are a few points:


Is this a big thing for you in a gamebook?  Do you care if it is either very linear, or that there is only one narrow path?  Is being able to take a very different path subsequent times whilst still being able to achieve victory important to you?

The game system

How much randomness does the system depend on?  Do you want to know how much combat there will be in the gamebook?  Do you want to know how much die rolling there is?  do you want to know how complex the system is?  If the gamebook is in app form and it does all the calculations for you, do you care if the system is complex and requires lots of die rolling?

Story complexity

Is the dungeon crawl the ends with a showdown with an evil sorcerer so 80s and does not have a place in the 21st century?  Do you want to know if you will be hacking up monsters or interacting with NPCs more?  Do you care how complex the story is?  Will you shy away from a dungeon crawl, or a book with a complex plot?


What do you want to know about it?  Do you want me to give you a style?  How would you categorise styles?  Do you want to know how purple or beige the prose are?  Are there aspects of the writing that would put you off a book?  Are there things that you do not like about a gamebook that you would forgive if you liked the writing?

The facts

What else would you like to know besides cost, author(s), illustrator(s), supplier, shipping costs, format (electronic or physcial), date of release (if it has not already been released)?  Do you care if it was crowdfunded  Do you want to know if there are illustrations, and, if so, colour or black and white?  Is there anything that would put you off/turn you on?


What would you like to know about the illustrations?  What words would you use to describe the illustrations that you love/hate.  How much doe illustrations contribute to your gamebook experience?


Which sins would you forgive in a gamebook, and why?

Playthrough or overview?

Would you like me to describe a playthrough?  If so, how much?  Or would you like me to just give an overview?

Favourite reviewers?

Have a look at some of the websites on the Gamebook Feed.  A lot of people review gamebooks.  Which ones would you like best?

Anything else?

As this is an impromtu blog post, I've probably missed something.  Please tell me what it is.

Personally, I like a gamebook with lots to explore on subsequent playthroughs, more than just a dungeon crawl, a system that is not too complex, combat that involves choice, I have no preference on what style of writing it is, and I could take or leave illustrations.  However, I cannot base my reviews on personal preference, and I would really like to know what you want.


  1. Hi, this is tangentially related to your topic. I've searched for a place to contact you and ask a few questions. I'm a tutor, math and reading for K - 12, and I am having some luck using gamebooks to reach reluctant readers and motivating poor readers. I have questions about a 10-yr-old video gamer (GTA, HALO, etc) who (until I tried a gamebook) would not read unless I was in the room listening to him read out loud. Can we exchange typings for a bit? Open Mind Tutoring - a t - g m a i l . c o m. Minus the spaces, of course. Thanks.

  2. I'd say at least mention all of those points if applicable, but spend time on what actually made the gamebook stand out, for good or bad. Generally people read reviews to see if they want to buy/try something, so be sure to emphasize why someone should or shouldn't get the gamebook, and whom it might appeal to.

  3. I will accept that reviews can be written entertainingly, but really the only points of interest to me (i.e. the factors that would determine whether I am likely to buy the book being reviewed) are the first four that you list: Replayability, System, Complexity, and Writing. I also prefer to know the number of sections, if that can be straightforwardly quantified.

  4. I don't care about how a gamebook was funded and I prefer an overview rather than a walkthrough. Some bit of walkthrough may be introduced as an example to highlight some concept or comment, but I don't want to read a gamebook for the first time knowing too much of how it develops and ends.

    I'm in general interested on the other aspects that you mention.

    There are many kind of gamebooks (highlighting various aspects of interactive literature) and I'd like to have this basic structure discussed.

    I would like to read about each gamebook (if it exist) what is its "golden nugget", i.e. one specially interesting, or cute, or mind bending etc. detail.

  5. Forgiveness depends from gamebook to gamebook.

    For example, once you finish Creature of Havoc, its replayability is low, but this can be forgiven for plentiful of reasons that everybody that read that finished that gamebook knows.

    Most gamebooks give up some peculiarity of interactive literature to highlight something else. This can be forgiven. (Your memory palace is an example: you have to forgive the fact that there are no fights & Co as they wouldn't fit the particular approach chosen)
    On the contrary, if you choose to be a dungeon crawl and you don't deliver a good dungeon crawl, this is much more difficult to forgive.

    We can't have scores against "standard tests for standard ingredients" to get to a final score, otherwise we'd stick always with the same gamebook with the same ingredients, while variety and new ideas will make this literary niche grow.