The Forest of Doom (1983)

As is my tradition, let’s start off the year with some adventure gamebooks, this time from the Fighting Fantasy line. I’m going to jump around to some I particularly enjoy, starting with FF3, The Forest of Doom (1983). I very much enjoy Iain McCaig’s cover art — autumnal tones and lizard folk, what’s not to love? The interiors are by Malcolm Barter. After devouring so many Russ Nicholson-illustrated FF’s, Barter’s line work seems jarringly clean, but I like it and he actually employs a variety of stylistic choices that are grittier than they seem at first blush.

I probably enjoy this one more than it deserves. It is constructed on a loop, which is nice, because you get lots of chances to not succeed at your quest (which is rather dull — find the hammer, return the hammer) and try again, but subsequent trips don’t account for the things you’ve already done (like the monsters you’ve killed, for instance). I don’t really see a good way of fixing that problem, either, at least not without ballooning the page count. There are also a ton of items to get and use, but none of them are particularly exciting. And it might be a me-problem, but I can’t seem to find a genuinely optimal path through the book; there is always some need to retread. I don’t love that.

Still, it’s a literal walk in the woods, which is a delight after the first two volumes taking place underground and inside. I love the atmosphere of it, and the number of weirdos who are hanging out in what is seemingly not that large a forest. Not the most earth-shattering FF, but not the worst by a good measure.

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