We arrive to the last article in the series from our guest bulgarian contributor Borislav Traykov, where he reviews the last of the three gamebooks that compose the third volume of “Hero: The Calling!”. “The well“, as it is called, seems also a very interesting (and sadly untraslated) offering from the bulgarian community.
I would like to feature The Well – the third short gamebook from the 3rd “Hero: The Calling!” collection of short gamebooks. It is also the debut gamebook of Branimir Sabev – he is an active member of the Bulgarian gamebook forum as well as an author of mostly horror fiction – a detail that will play its part in the flavor of his work, The Well.
The back cover teaser messages for each gamebook – in the blog post dedicated to “Hero: The Calling!” #3.
For this post I wish to translate the reviews on The Well from the book’s page on GoodReads.com.
A fragment of Slavy Ganev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):
Style-wise the best effort was put by Branimir Sabev with his short gamebook The Well. The plot is not complicated: a cursed well which leads to a network of tunnels filled to the brim with evil monsters. A fourteen-year old boy must go through all sorts of nastiness in this hellhole in order to save his little sister before she gets eaten.
The pace and the game mechanics remind me of an old-school first-person shooter like Duke Nukem, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, etc. in which you make your way through narrow spaces and you take turns in endless labyrinths while fragging hordes of monsters. There are even two boss battles.
I really enjoyed it because it reminded me of some PC fun from my childhood. Great fun!
A fragment of Branimir Sabev‘s review from his blog (Bulgarian only):
Sometimes Evil is closer to us than we expect. A thirteen-old boy will have to go through a literal Hell filled with traps and nightmarish creatures in order to save his little sister.
So, here I am! My first gamebook – a short one, compared to the other two in the collection, but I must say it turned out good, very good even thanks to the editors.
You play as a youngster who needs to go down the well at the end of the yard in order to save his little sister who has been kidnapped by Evil. You will find yourselves in a labyrinth filled with all manner of foul creatures and deadly traps which you must overcome using your skills – Strength, Dexterity, Accuracy and Psyche (translator’s note: “Resolve” may be more appropriate) – and the items you find. I strongly hope that you like it!
A fragment of Borislav Traykov’s (that’s me!) review:
The feeling I got when I read The Well was that the author’s attitude was way too enforced on me as a reader, as if I had to be having fun with it like a 12-14 year old kid who is a growing thrash metal fan, for the likes of which Metalica and the urban/sub-urban horror of Stephen King goes hand in hand with shooter games like Quake and Doom. Frankly, I think that the author wanted to share his passion for all those things, but I felt too pushed to share that passion.
As for the literary aspect, I really liked the fact that the plot takes place in Bulgaria – there were a few words, mostly old, borrowed from Turkish, which I had not encountered before! As a reader I was pleasantly surprised and enriched by this fact.
For me the descriptions of the horrific situations were strongly reminiscent of Stephen King’s style – disgusting and 90s-like, rather than blood-chilling terror in the style of Lovecraft. Not that this is a bad thing – I got used to the style and I kind of liked it. Especially the encounters with the brood queen and the end baddie.
Since you are fighting against the clock to save your sister, you have to track your time, but counting 5 minutes on almost every paragraph became a bore, along with the labyrinthine main part of the story. It was a lot like Livingstone’s FF favorite tunnel/corridor traversal.
HOWEVER! At the end of the gamebook I saw that there is a speed run challenge for the reader and I liked that idea immediately – the more ambitious readers will really have a reason to do time tracking and to try to optimize the traversal of the labyrinth so that they can prove they are the best. The presence of an actual prize – a copy of one of the other new Bulgarian gamebooks – was also nice. I hope that some young reader will be able to grab it!
Please let me know what you think in the comments below – I would love to hear your questions and comments!
- The image of cover photo of the book is taken from the publically available feature article on knigi-igri.bg
- All translations of names – book, story, author, etc. – are purely my own interpretation – I am not in collaboration with the people who published the book.