Out of Time by Paul Struth
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
Today we’re playing Out of Time, Paul Struth’s time bending mystery adventure. The first big plus is that this is set in beautiful and gloriously old cities in the Czech Republic, which gives it immediate cool points. There is something magical about the place and it feels perfectly natural for a time travelling story to spring up here.
It took me a little while to get the book, with Emily not endearing herself to me in any way, but then without knowing it I was completely drawn in. The author has created a very compelling detective story here, and it’s written in a very clever way. You meet people who initially know a lot more about you than you do yourself and it is confusing and complex. Then you begin to realise that you’re constantly being given tiny subtle clues. As you re-live the experience again and again, not only does your character build up and retain memories (which open up new choices for you in the adventure) but you, the reader, are able to piece together the story and figure out what you have to do next from your own memories. Meta!
This isn’t a criticism but there’s not much game to this gamebook. There is no character customisation and very few rules. There is no combat, certainly no dice, and all you have is a determination stat that rises and falls throughout the adventure. But in truth, it probably even does not need that (it’s used very rarely, and if anything it’s a distraction to turn away to mark a point on or off).
But nothing is fine, never has been since that day, aged eleven, when time first stood still. The
attacks are coming more frequently now, the slightest hint of stress or danger enough to trigger an
episode. What is wrong with you?
I am massively impressed with Out of Time, and this is probably one of the most sophisticated gamebooks I’ve come across. It won’t be for everyone – if you’re here looking for imps and a dungeon crawl hack n’slash this is not it. If you want to really think and unlock a clever story yourself then this is recommended. I don’t even want to give any details of my playthrough, because this is a journey you need to completely unravel and experience for yourself. I failed the quest, but even in failure I was given an insight and an odd character was finally explained! And even though I failed, I am going to come back to this book later because I want to see how it turns out. That, I think, is an indication of how good this entry is.