The Thing That Crawls by Matthew R. Webber
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
The Thing That Crawls is a hack n slash gamebook entry for the Windhammer Prize 2013. It’s combat heavy and story light, and in it our character descends into a mine to discover the fate of a missing guard.
“Now, please understand that we had the site verified by one Brother Verdant Llyme, one of the
finest sages money can buy, that the site has had no mature magical activity in at least thirty
millennium, so we are not expecting anything severe. What we desire from you is simple.”
A lot of entries have been light on the game part this year, but this one tries to make up for all of them. We begin with picking a character. Here we have the action rpg canon of wizard, warrior and rogue. It’s not really much of a choice, so I create Boris Furryhands, the fantastic and sexy wizard. After reading the combat rules, I became a bit confused by how spells work, so I decided to retire Boris and call for his cousin instead. Barry Angryhands the warrior was now the chosen one. Would this make combat slightly easier to understand? Well no, I’m also confused by how combat works. It’s like rock, paper, scissors but without any of the elegance of that system so there’s a chart we can refer to at the start of the book quite a lot.
Halfway through the book you come to the end of the rules and the adventure begins. I’m immediately attacked by a plant. I then walk down a corridor and I’m attacked by the plant…again. And then the book breaks and I am stuck (one choice leads to the paragraph I’m already at, and the other two are missing). So I’ll go back in a time a bit and choose the other corridor. I’m attacked by the same plant…again, and then we meet a troll. We’re given the option to trade with him, or to fight him. As I have nothing cool apart from my hammer of rage (which I want to keep) I attack the troll. Unfortunately the book is broken again and this takes me the paragraph where I successfully trade with him. This was too much for me so Barry decided to end his life by sticking his face in a plant.
This one is difficult to enjoy. It’s a dungeon crawl with a complex combat system and random encounters. It’s also completely broken. It’s an ambitious effort to turn a computer rpg into a gamebook but the problems with the game system make it unplayable.