Moreau by Zachary Carango

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Warning! Review may contain spoilers!

Moreau is a mystery adventure set on a dangerous island. It is an entry in the Windhammer Prize 2013. Last year’s prize was won by the author Zachary.

“Anything over the radio?” You turn to Kolma.
“Just the same track on repeat. Everything’s down.” She pulls out her earpiece. Her brown eyes look
concerned. “If anyone’s left they aren’t talking.”
“Could they really all be dead?” Xander picks his nails and scrutinizes the lush shoreline.
“Don’t know. But we’ll find out soon enough.”

This sets the scene quite nicely. I’m already expecting zombies by now but I’m hopefully disappointed later on. We’re then launched into a detective story of sorts, where we are to find out what happened to the people on this mysterious island. I love the premise. But I don’t love how the journey goes.

To begin, I am immediately bamboozled by the rules. It turns out we can throw the dice in the bin, great. No randomness here, we’re relying on wit and pure judgement. I don’t expect this adventure to last long. Then we’re given a bit of money and a list of weapons, and then I get a bit confused. You can buy weapons for yourself: machetes, assault rifles, that kind of thing, and you can also buy weapons for your ship, like a rocket strike or (drastically) a napalm inferno. But it is not explained if these effects are cumulative (can my character and the ship both have weapons?), nor does it say if I have to pay the cost each time I use the attack (is it per fight, per round, a one off cost…?) So the rules don’t really help very much. But we DO find out that a napalm strike is only 6 times more powerful than a machete hit, which is interesting and useful news. What’s all this fuss about nuclear war?

I don’t really know for sure, so I ignore the ship’s weapons and buy myself an assault rifle and the taxidermy skill, which is a bit like buying a money tree. Our mission is to find life on this island, so the first significant choice I make is to head to the resort. This seems like the most likely place to contain survivors, so I head off there with my companions, Kolma and Xander. We immediately hear signs of life in the restaurant area. “Wow!” I thought. “What an easy gamebook!”

In the restaurant is a lobster man. Inexplicably, I kill him. I can only imagine the undocumented dialogue went as follows:
“Hey, we’ve found a survivor!” calls out Kolma to Xander, “A real miracle of modern science! Mission complete! Now we can finally go home!”
I empty the contents of my assault rifle into the face of lobster man.
“What was that?” asks Xander, “I couldn’t hear you over all of that gun fire.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t really matter,” Kolma replies.

No, this gamebook won’t be so easy. A little later I’m cracking open a safe and we’re faced with a word puzzle. I couldn’t figure this out…maybe it’s a ceaser cypher. Maybe I missed a clue. I don’t know. I give up, and the safe explodes in my eardrum. I die.

It’s a tough gamebook, and its interesting storyline is let down by complicated and illogical rules. When can I use napalm strike? All the time? Even indoors? Is it wise and safe to carpet bomb a small location with nuclear paint when I’m supposed to be looking for survivors?

I loved the detective element but not the execution. Disappointing.

Windhammer 2013 Review – Moreau
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