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Archive for the ‘interactive fiction’ Category

Cover of book being reviewed

I’ve enjoyed gamebooks for many decades. These are a form of fiction where the story offers the reader choices, allowing branching narratives, which you choose by turning to a different numbered section. This form of interactive fiction has a long history, dating back to the early decades of the twentieth century. However it took off in popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, with series such as the US Choose Your Own Adventure books and the UK Fighting Fantasy series.

So it was a delight for me to spend some Christmas money on a fairly recently published gamebook set in the world of the television series Midsomer Murders. This is a UK series that has been airing for decades, featuring police investigating murders in a series of cosy, rural village settings, often with particularly imaginative and setting appropriate methods of death.

In this book you are a detective investigating a crime, which you gradually uncover as you work your way through the story, deciding how to follow up clues, and how to approach questioning members of the public. The writing is strong, getting on with things, and cramming a remarkable amount of content into 219 main sections. I didn’t feel at all short changed, and was immersed in the mysteries I was uncovering. The local characters you encounter are deftly described. And, pleasingly, the various methods of murder include some that are utterly bizarre, and yet so fitting, in true Midsomer Murders style.

On the downside for replay purposes the story and core plot of the crimes in it are fixed, and won’t change on rereads. But there are many varied elements, only some of which you would uncover on each read through. So replays can be fun, exploring changes to the choices made, and pursuing different lines of enquiry.

Even surviving the gamebook can be an achievement for you playing as the police officer investigating, with many opportunities for you to fall victim to the criminal or criminals involved. The book has 30 different endings, to varying degrees of success. In addition there is a really neat section at the back of the book where each ending is given a more objective assessment of success or not. These assessments are grouped together, and it is almost impossible not to peek at some of the others, which isn’t so much spoilery as motivational, making you want to replay the book and experience other endings.

Overall the gamebook is a fun and original take on the cosy whodunnit world of Midsomer Murders, and I would recommend it to any fans of the TV series, or indeed gamebook fans looking for something a bit different.

Could You Survive Midsomer? is written by Simon Brew and published by Cassell. The book is an attractively designed hardback, 304 pages long, and includes a number of illustrations, nicely drawn additions to the story in the text.

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In the 1590s my 12xg-grandfather Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig hired mathematician and occult practitioner John “Logarithms” Napier to hunt for hidden treasure in Fast Castle in Berwickshire.

I wrote a text adventure based on this true story, filling in the gaps in the record creatively, and entered it into the Spring Thing 2020 interactive fiction competition.

Today I wrote up some thoughts about the development of the game.

The game is freely available online to play via browser or download.

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