Friday, 9 August 2013

I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing

My least favourite of the 148 gamebooks I've played for this blog is without doubt The Genesis Quest, the first of Nigel Gross and Jon Sutherland's Lemmings Adventure Gamebooks. Thus, I haven't exactly been looking forward to playing LAG 2, The Hypnosis Enigma. But I had no idea how awful TGQ was when I bought THE, principally because I got Enigma first.

Back at the start of the Quest playthrough (well, as much of it as I managed before giving up in disgust), I said that I'd explain how I got started on collecting the Lemmings books when I reached this entry, but there's not actually much to say. I came across a copy of Enigma in a charity shop and bought it, after which my intermittent completest tendencies prompted me to make a small effort to get the other book in the series. Perhaps I should have tried actually playing Enigma first:if it's anywhere near as bad as Quest, and I'd known that seven or so years ago, I could have saved myself the time, money and aggravation that book 1 has cost me.

Anyway, it's time I found out if the second book is any better than the first. It starts with the announcement that something strange (well, stranger than the usual level of strangeness) is happening in Lemming Land. Certain Lemmings are behaving very oddly, and all contact with the Space Zone has been lost. Assorted delegations of Lemmings are now meeting up to try and work out what to do - or rather, to dump responsibility for a response to the situation on the reader of the book.

In addition to keeping track of the Lemmings under my command, I'm also going to have to maintain a record of Victory Points (which provide some indication of how well or poorly I'm doing) and Mystery Points (the purpose of which is not disclosed in the rules). Those scores start at 0, and I must begin by selecting my team of Lemmings, but I can only pick members of three of the eight groups available. If this book only has one viable route to victory, that's around a 62.5% chance of guaranteeing failure from the outset.

Only one of the Zones explicitly mentioned in the introductory passage is on the list of Lemming categories from which to pick, and that's Space. So does that mean I have to choose Space to have a shot at winning, or will picking it give the authors an excuse to heap scorn on me on the grounds that, with the Zone now incommunicado, I have no way of gathering any Lemmings from there, and have thus wasted one of my three selections? I might as well find out...

No abuse. Yet. I get to roll two dice and pick that many Lemmings (in this instance six) from a list of nine types. The odds are deteriorating. I'll have an Attractor, a Jet Pack, a Floater, a Roper, a Laser Blaster and a Super Lem! (The exclamation mark appears obligatory). For the next category I pick Egyptian, partly because that whole pyramid thing suggests that I might be able to find Builders there, and partly because one of the between-paragraph illustrations depicts a Lemming in Egyptian-looking headgear, which could be a hint. Yes, I can get a Builder there. Also a Blocker, an Exploder, a Miner and a Magic Carpet (the dice fell less favourably here - and that six was already sub-par). Also depicted between paragraphs are Polar Lemmings, so I choose them for my final (roll - ouch!) three team members: a Thrower, a Scooper and a Kayaker.

I'm now ready to start, and the authors get in a snide dig at anyone who rolled poorly. Sure, Gross and Sutherland are not to blame for the way the dice fell, but whose idea was it to go for random numbers rather than set totals? Not mine.

Now I'm offered reinforcements by the Classic Lemmings. Again the dice decide how many, but this time there are only three possible numbers, and the roll determines which of them I get. A measly five, so I add a Climber, a Diver, a Parachute, a Runner and a Flame-Thrower.

I might as well start this investigation where I am, in the Classic Zone. A bit of nosing around reveals a shoddily-built platform, and given that Lemmings take pride in doing a good job, that's clearly evidence that something is afoot here. Closer examination reveals that there are still Lemmings working on it: five Builders and a Blocker, all of whom appear to be in a trance. I get asked if I have an identical group within my party. I was forgetting that extreme specialisation tends to be required when Jon Sutherland's name is on the cover.

Being four Builders short of quota, I find that half a dozen of my Lemmings suddenly get vacant expressions and wander off with the ones working on the platform. So that's goodbye to Floater, Blocker, Exploder, Scooper, Diver and Runner. Then a nearby building collapses, and we lose track of the entranced Lemmings in the chaos. I also lose a Victory Point (does the book allow for negative scores?) but gain a Mystery Point. Big whoop.

My depleted party moves outside the city. They head for a bridge over a river, and are enticed away by the sounds of a party.  The musicians are a mix of Highland and Egyptian Lemmings, and some of the partygoers appear to have danced themselves into unconsciousness. Asking about what's going on elicits no response, and a die roll determines that my Lemmings decide to join the party. Eventually I manage to get all but the Parachute, the Magic Carpet and the Roper to move on.

Proceeding to the hills, the remaining Lemmings find a Great Exit. There are three theoretically viable routes to it, and I pick the pass. It starts getting narrow, but I have a Miner... who turns out not to be needed, as the pass opens out again. The Exit can take the Lemmings to the Shadow Zone or the Highland Zone, and I know that the Shadow Zone is one of the affected regions, so we head there.

The place is brightly lit, which is odd, as it's supposed to be more like the title suggests. Up ahead is a maze (please, not again), with mirrors reflecting the light. I can't use Shadow Lemmings here, which might be a drawback if I'd had the opportunity to acquire any. And drat it, yes I do have to navigate the party through the maze. To add to the opposite-of-fun, I need to roll a die any time I see an asterisk, with a 1 in 6 chance of something (probably bad) happening.

After a while the party finds and deactivates a big floodlight. Directions switch from compass-based to right and left, and back again. Exits from junctions don't match with the paths taken to get there. The text suggests I've made a discovery, and directs me to another paragraph where I find that it's just another choice of directions. Eventually the Lemmings find an exit (I never did find out what would happen if I rolled the wrong number in the maze), and I can have a Victory Point for every floodlight put out of action.

There's a pit between where we are and the Shadow Lemming dwellings. Having no Glue Pourers, I must use my lone Builder (the book doesn't allow for the possibility of having none of either type). But I'd need at least four Builders to get the job done (precisely how many I require depends on another roll), and the only way to prevent my other Lemmings from marching to their doom across the unfinished bridge like... well, you know - would be to use the Blocker I lost earlier.

Well, that wasn't as appalling as the other Lemmings gamebook. But it was still pretty bad, what with arbitrary decisions and random rolls determining almost everything. This is not a series to which I will be returning in a hurry.

1 comment:

  1. Have you considered making a blog entry about the 20 (or more?) worst things to put in gamebooks?