Monday, November 12, 2012

The Enchanted Windmill by Bert Van Dam

The Enchanted Windmill is an extremely ambitious undertaking, and is almost very fun. I personally really like the sandbox style gamebook. Something feels rewarding to me about having a world to explore, and being able to move around it at my own will.

The problem this book suffers from is the complete absence of any hook. While, yes, in principle I like the sandbox style of gamebook--you still need a reason to do anything. Okay, so I was traveling and my horse threw me because it saw a snake. Now what?

I'm dumped in a random town with no direction at all. Now, if this were happening to me in real life, I would probably continue trying to get to my destination one way or another. Presumably you need to be there for a good reason. This does not, however, seem to be a matter of very great concern to our protagonist. He's perfectly happy to mosey back and forth between Wouwse Plantage and Heerle. About the time I chatted with the innkeeper and all I got was, "He knows a lot of good jokes, so you have a great time," was about the time I gave up and moved on.

Presumably there was plot there somewhere. As an author, I suggest giving your reader a hook into the plot. As a reader, I'm only going to search so hard for it.

Another thing I wanted to comment on is the rule-set. I had trouble slogging through reading the rules. That may be because I was burnt out by the time I got to this one from reading 22 different systems in 22 different gamebooks, or it may be because the rules are a bit more wordy and lengthy than are really necessary for a short gamebook. My preference (as you may have noticed in my own entry) is for rules that fade into the background, requiring as little player attention as possible.

I did like the tone and the setting of these old Norwegian rural towns. Really cool setting. And I think the sandbox was fairly well constructed, for what it's worth. But having a sandbox does not mean you don't need a story. I would be interested to see what could come of this with further revisions, something to ratchet up the tension and get the player interested right away.

1 comment:

  1. I would describe The Enchanted Windmill as a very pleasant countryside stroll - the sort of gamebook that I would play if I wanted to kick back and just enjoy myself for a bit. The sandbox bit worked very well although there were some inconsequential decisions such as buyin ale and food in most inns just leads to a paragraph where you read about enjoying the ale or food.

    The system could be improved. I liked the idea of choosing which stat to use in combat (using brawn, brains or running away) but flavour wise, it seemed wierd that successfully running away had the same effect as successful use of brawn.