Why don’t they leave the house? by Nicholas Stillman
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
Last year Nicholas Stillman brought us the zany Gunlaw, and had a reception a bit like Marmite. Its tongue-in-cheek cartoon violence made for arguably the most memorable entry in the Windhammer competition last year, but it was so extreme it polarised the gamebook community. A shame because I absolutely loved it.
Nicholas threatens to do exactly the same again this year, with his horrific Why don’t they leave the house? He opens with the delightfully intriguing line of “Just one rule…you only play once.” – so just to make sure, if you haven’t played it yet, and you want to, and you should, you’d better go and play it now.
Write down clues, the spoils of your hunts.
Just one rule…you only play once.
There aren’t any further rules and no dice rolls to make and the immersion is excellent throughout. I couldn’t put it down. Here, you are told to play as yourself – no characters, you are you, and you have to approach the gamebook with brutal honesty. As a result this makes the decisions deeply personal and draws you into the book. As a gamebook mechanic for the horror genre it is a stroke of genius and pulls you in deep. A gamebook is a uniquely interactive experience and by doing this the author is pushing into both the horror and gamebook genres in incredibly effective ways I have never seen before. By playing yourself the book will also ask serious and demanding questions of your morals in stressful situations as everything unravels around you.
There’s no denying it, this is a deeply disturbing piece of work. Like all good horrors, it paces well. Events become evermore strange, grisly and horrific as your companions (and yourself) descend into madness. The writing is fantastic and I’ve never read a gamebook like this – but the reader advisory note on the front page hasn’t been placed there as a perfunctory afterthought. We’re really pushing the boundaries of horrible here.
Wheras Gunlaw was fun and ultra violent, this one is horrendous and ultra violent. It’s not fun but then neither is Saw. I would love to recommend this – as a gamebook it’s as clever as anything out there and really well written. But it is not for everyone – do not forget you are reading a horror – a truly disturbing horror that deals with uncomfortable themes and will stay with you for a while.