Blood of the Zombies is one of those “turn to page 24 to go left, turn to page 69 to go right” choose-your-own adventure books. It’s a recent volume in a series called Fighting Fantasy that’s been around since the 80s. And now it’s on the iPad, where it’s exactly as dated and tedious as you’d think it would be.
I don’t mind the concept of a choose-your-own adventure book. In fact, I love the idea of talented writers using prose to let you pick your way through an adventure. But Blood of the Zombies is missing the “talented writer” part of the equation.
Thanks to English’s gender neutral second person pronoun, you don’t know whether the lead character is a dude or a chick. I guess the idea is that you’re supposed to associate with this graduate student of the supernatural who travels Europe asking random bystanders if they’ve seen any vampires or werewolves. He or she is fortuitously kidnapped by a mad scientist who’s turning people into zombies. That’ll make quite the thesis.
While paging through text, you’ll occasionally roll a D6 to tick zombies off a list based on what weapon is in your inventory. You’ll forage through stuff, most of which is useless. You’ll eventually rescue a damsel in distress and meet a few named enemies. You’ll hit plenty of dead ends that you would have no way of anticipating, or you’ll just run out of stamina points and die. When this happens, hope that you didn’t use your single save point — it’s a bookmark! — at some point after you went down the fatal branch. If that’s the case, start over from the beginning.
A game that relies on graphics to create a world should have good visuals. Similarly, a game that relies on words to create a world should have good writing. But this is the sort of writing you’d normally skip. Blood of the Zombies is mostly prosaic descriptions of zombies, corridors, doors, furniture. Not a single memorable thing happens. It has no personality. It’s like a dungeon drawn on graph paper. As you read, creepy music plays. There are sound effects and an occasional drawing in the style of a comic book, looking vaguely out of place for how rarely they occur.
In the 80s, these choose-your-own-adventure books were novel and exciting, particularly on your way to discovering some of the well written Infocom adventures. But today, on an iPad, Blood of the Zombies is a tedious relic, not unlike playing Adventure on an Atari 2600 emulator. It might sound like a cool idea until you’re actually doing it. Some things are better off remembered instead of experienced.