Written by Ian Livingstone, Artwork by Kevin Crossley
Blood of the Zombies is the most recent of the Fighting Fantasy games, and the second set in a modern world. It was released for the series' 30th anniversary, and you no doubt already know this anyway. Otherwise, why would you be reading this? My copy must be second-hand, because it has someone's name written inside it, Ian something-or-other. Honestly, some people!
Anyway, the biggest thing you'll notice in this book is that the combat system has been completely reworked. Now, you have only one stat - stamina. Each zombie you encounter has only one stamina point, meaning that each hit you deal will kill one zombie. How many you can hit in each turn is determined by the type of weapon you have - a baseball bat deals 1 dice worth of damage, while a shotgun will deal 1 dice + 5 points of damage. You make your attack first in each turn, and then you receive one point of stamina damage for each zombie that is still surviving.
|The remake did not happen.
And you have nobody to blame for that, because you underestimated them. Your worst enemy wasn't the zombies, it was yourself. Which hits right in with another key theme of Romero's work - that the real threat doesn't come from the zombies, but from human nature.
Do you think this will help me out at all during the game? Here's a clue - NOOOOOOOOOOOOPE!!!!!!!!!!
|Pictured: Not the same Otto
One day, after drinking down a bowl of gruel with my feet (and being the envy of contortionists around the world while I do so), I decide that enough is enough and tell Otto that he smells like a bag of dead frogs. This sends him into a raging fury, during which time I kick him in the gut and grab his keys for my shackles. I lock him up in my place, and proceed to interrogate Otto.
He tells me that he is a poor man who is treated cruelly by his evil master, Gingrich Yurr, and is kept here as a virtual prisoner himself. Awww, poor Otto. I feel so sorry for him that I almost want to not kick him in the ribs a few times in revenge. I leave, and soon find my way into Otto's bedchamber. I proceed to raid his entire belongings, steal a stylish backpack he happens to own, and snarf down what's left of Otto's dinner. Trust me, the guy deserves it.
Otto's room also contained a small penknife, which I took as a weapon, because I currently had nothing at all to my name. I also helped myself to his whole wealth of $15, and a piece of string. Because string is the most useful thing in the world. No, really, you try escaping from a castle full of zombies without some string!
Toddling down the hallway, I found a small bag that contained some matches, a pen, and a key with a number '9' engraved on it. One thing I've learned is that keys with numbers on them are always useful. Eventually I found my way into a store room, which to my surprise was inhabited. Two of Gingrich's goons, who didn't seem the most loyal of chaps, were quite willing to tell me his entire evil plan - for a small bribe, of course. Ah, good to know that money still buys henchmen loyalty. Here's what they told me...
Gingrich Yurr is evil, and is amassing an army of zombies in order to take over the world.
Y'know, sometimes I think that these insane villains need to watch a movie sometime. Just so that they can get an idea about how this is all going to turn out. The henchmen then tells me that I will need to kill EVERY SINGLE ONE of the zombies. There's even a space in my sheet to record how many zombies I kill. So I'm immediately left with a feeling that this is going to be very, very important. I'm then given the chance to buy some of his supplies, so I spent my remaining $5 on a hacksaw, a pair of rubber gloves, some batteries, glue, and sticky tape. I think these are sensible choices, I mean, it's still cheaper than my local hardware store!
|Got my bat, ready for any zombies I run across.
What about you?
Speaking of which, two zombies burst out of the cupboard in back of the launderette. My first encounter with them, and the dice are on my side, I manage to beat them both down with my newly-acquired bat without breaking a sweat. Nice work!. I finish putting on a change of clothes, grab some items out of the cupboard (a first aid kit and some bullets, which will be very useful if I ever find a gun) and make my way out of the room.
|I highly recommend
checking out this excellent
zombie flick by Lucio Fulci
Taking a pair of blacksmithing tongs with me, I find a door hidden behind a curtain. It's locked, but the key I found earlier unlocks it without any trouble, leading into a coal storage room. Buried in the coal, I find a grappling hook - making me wonder why anyone would bury a grappling hook in a pile of coal? I press on into the boiler room, where I'm able to bandage up my wrists (still sore from being chained up for so long) and dispatch three other zombies before I find a real treasure - a crowbar. If my hunch is right, this crowbar is going to be very useful in this adventure!
I follow the doorway back out of the boiler room and emerge into a main hallway of the castle. I'm instantly beset by four more zombies, and this time my dice are not too lucky. I'm forced to use my medkit from earlier to patch myself up. But my perseverance is rewarded, because on one of the zombies I'm fortunate enough to find my first real strong weapon of the game - a pistol. I will call her 'Zombie-Killer the first', and she will claim many deadites.
My hope of the sewers being empty of zombies proves to be a pipe dream though, as I soon find two of them lurking in the tunnels. After shooting them down, I notice that one of them is carrying a locket that belongs to a woman called Amy Fletcher. I'm hoping this will be of some use to someone, but probably not for a while yet. I push on through the sewers, until the tunnel becomes too narrow, and my hopes of escaping from the castle by means of the sewer tunnels evaporates. I do, however, stumble across a scrap of paper that contains the combination lock for a safe, should I ever need it.
|The face of a madman!
I will call my new shotgun 'Zombie-Killer the second'.
After refreshing myself in the cleaner's cupboard, I start to head up the stairway when I run into an encounter that would no doubt kill me outright had I not found my trusted Zombie-Killer the second. A swarm of twelve zombies meet me on the stairway, each dragging weapons with them, each strong enough to deal two damage points rather than a simple one! This fight is rough, and although I'm tempted to use my grenade, I'm still able to emerge victorious without wasting it. But my health is down by almost a half at this point. I hope I'll be able to find another health kit soon.
I get to the top of the stairs, and soon find my way into the games room. I like the games room, because it has a shelf full of Fighting Fantasy books which I could sit and read. Maybe it should be called the 'breaking the fourth wall' room. Sadly, the only thing I find in this room that's of any immediate use (aside from a copy of Warlock of Firetop Mountain) is a safe box which is locked with a key that I do not possess. Sadly, I leave the room, wishing I could stay and play a few rounds of Arkham Horror.
|All we want to do is eat your brains
we're not unreasonable, I mean
no-one's gonna eat your eyes...
I keep on walking down the hallway, when I come to a box that has a note pinned to it, which reads 'do not open'. At first I'm about to open it, but then I think, who wrote the note? It's not a zombie, so it must have been a person. And I assume that they'll have put the note on there for a reason, so I guess that maybe the box contains a pack of flesh-eating zombie ferrets or something. I leave it alone, and enter the library.
Dispatching two more zombies, I manage to find a rather interesting book that documents the history of zombies from their days of carribean myth. I also find a hidden switch which, when I push it, fires a poison dart into the back of my head. Why would you have this sort of thing in your castle? Oy... My stamina's now down three, so I guess that I'm going to either die or find a health pack real soon. I keep bumbling around with the switch until it makes a hidden doorway slide open.
I can't complain. I played a gamebook called 'Blood of the Zombies', and got eaten by zombies. There is nothing about this that is not perfectly in keeping with the theme of the game.
I loved this gamebook, it is fiendishly difficult just as I'd expected from Livingstone. I killed 50 zombies with this new combat system, and the way in which it works means that the player spends a lot more of their time and focus on exploration and item hunting. It's not a combat system that would work in all FF books, or indeed most FF books, but because we're dealing with zombies here (and remembering what I said earlier about them being a threat when in a swarm), it works. And I killed 50 zombies. Fifty! C'mon, that's pretty impressive, isn't it? Admit it, it's better than you'd have expected, eh?
The atmosphere is lovely, the artwork is first-rate, the way it incorporates a modern setting while remaining true to the 'dungeon crawl' core is excellently executed, and this is definitely an instant classic of the Fighting Fantasy series. Seriously, play this.