Reviews

Fighting Fantasy: Blood of the Zombies Review

This review requires a six sided die.

If you don’t have a six sided die on hand, there is a handy virtual set online (here)
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Paragraph One:

Roll your die. 

Did you roll a 1-3?: Continue reading Paragraph 1.

Did you roll a 4-6?: Skip to Paragraph 2.

Blood of the Zombies is a game book adventure, an electronic representation of what used to be produced as a physical book. These books are like “choose your own adventures” that introduce role playing mechanics. The reader takes on the role of a hero, who has a set amount of health points, can acquire items, and can even engage in combat. All of these mechanics are generally handled through dice rolls. In a sense, the book is a dungeon master, presenting the player with choices along a predefined campaign.

You are in an empty room. To your left and right are identical doors.

Option 1. Do you take the left door?

Proceed to Paragraph Two.

Option 2. Do you instead take the right door?

Proceed to Paragraph Three.

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Paragraph Two: 

Roll your die. 

Did you roll a 1-3?: Skip to Paragraph Three.

Did you roll a 4-6?: Continue reading Paragraph Two.

The frustrating part about a game book is that you can miss content, and because the author doesn’t want to create infinite branching paths, you can end up at a later stage of the adventure without the context. Most of the time, you don’t even know if you are going to miss out on something by making one choice or the other. You can even make wildly different choices that end up at the same converging point in the story, because the author did not want to write separate paths. I am specifically referring to a point in the game where you choose whether or not to save an individual, and the game punishes the player equally with the same combat and story bit for either choice.

A swarm of zombies interrupts the review. You manage to leap back before the undead overcome you, but must now attempt to defeat them.

Option 1. Do you muster your strength and hurl a nearby chair into the center of the undead mass?

Proceed to Paragraph Five.

Option 2. Do you risk infection and swing your fists in desperation?

Proceed to Paragraph Four.

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Paragraph Three: 

Do not roll.

Either through an unlucky roll or a misinformed choice you you are overcome by zombies, a frequent occurrence in Blood of the Zombies. Thank you for reading.

Start again? Proceed to Paragraph One.

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Paragraph Four: 

Do not roll. 

Your fist connects, and the first of the undead crumples to the ground. A loud noise echoes from the other room. Distracted, the zombie horde shuffles away. You are safe for now.

Panting, you understand that through mere happenstance you are alive, much like a player of Blood of the Zombies. Players are provided with a host of choices, but many of them are misinformed. Most paths lead to repetitious dice battles with zombies, or yet another way to unexpectedly die.

I didn’t find the story in Blood of the Zombies compelling enough to beat my head against it in attempt to reach the ending. The game clearly values luck and learning through failure over the player’s intuition and awareness. Other game books provide the player with more interesting choices, encounters, and motives. Don’t misunderstand my criticism as a misunderstanding of game books, when they begin to feel unfair or arbitrary it is easy to accuse the format of being archaic. I happen to think that game books can be exciting when you aren’t constantly jumping back to the last bookmark.

Proceed to the final score.
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Paragraph Five:

Do not roll.

Try as you might, you cannot lift the chair. At second glance, it appears to be fixed to the floor and cannot be lifted.

Proceed to Paragraph Three.

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Final Score: 

Don’t take this as an indictment against the game book genre.

not-good

Blood of the Zombies is available for $5.99 as a Universal download.

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  • Paul

    1 out of 5? What a joke. The app is great and has been receiving excellent reviews 1 out of 5 is an insult. Poor poor review. Think I’ll go elsewhere for decent reviews now

  • Nathan

    Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time to read through my review. I did some digging for you after reading your comment and found that other prominent reviewers are taking issue with Blood of the Zombies. Tom Chick’s review over at Quarter to Three contains many of my complaints, and the commentors have made some good observations.

    Under our “Review Requests” tab way down at the bottom of the page, you can read through our 5 point scale. I try to make full use of that scale, and I honestly felt that the 1.5 label of “Not Good” best described this game. Look to my review above for why I felt that way.

    Don’t let me use Tom’s review as a shield, though. I’d much rather hear why exactly you like the game, and which of my complaints you take issue with rather than have us compare aggregate scores as a sort of validation of opinion.

  • Saansilt

    I love gamebooks, especially the classic CYOAs. Cave of time was my first. I was hoping for something similar, but it just didn’t click. Maybe a Distinct lack of dinosaurs. By the way, Tom just remember a review is always someone’s opinion in the end. You are free to disagree. Like I consider the grey godzilla the best, no matter what Ebert says.

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