FF12: Space Assassin

David Anderson
Nicholas Campbell
Robert Clive
Robert Douglas
Ray Holt
Per Jorner
Jeff Poteralski
Todd Stigliano
John Stock
Steven Taylor


[David Anderson]

When word reaches your planet that a mad scientist plans to release a horrific plague, you are the futuristic assassin hired to bring him to justice.

I have seen this book maligned more than once by other gamebook readers, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for it. This was the first Fighting Fantasy book I read (though not the first) that broke from the swords and sorcery of what I had seen from the rest. Being able to trade in my enchanted sword for a blaster rifle and a bunch of grenades was a nice change of pace. It does feel awful random at times, like the use for the squirrel creature, but some atmospheres I rather liked, such as the world within the depths of the ship. Check it out.


[Nicholas Campbell]

For some time, a mad scientist called Cyrus has been kidnapping people and using them in grotesque experiments. His latest plan is far more sinister, though - he plans to cover your planet in radioactive material and unleash deadly viruses on everyone. The Assassins' Guild has selected you to enter Cyrus' gigantic spaceship, the Vandervecken, and kill him.

It sounds like a typical plot for a science fiction gamebook, then. Reading through the rules, Space Assassin initially looks promising. As well as the traditional hand-to-hand combat that we're so used to in Fighting Fantasy, there is also gunfire combat, which can be deadly. You also have a choice of weapons to buy at the start of the game - an electric lash, an assault blaster, grenades and a gravity bomb - but you won't be able to afford all of them. The concept of armour is also introduced; it will protect you from gunfire, but its effectiveness diminishes with each hit.

After a few goes, this promise turns to disappointment. The book is quite poorly designed. Although there are many interesting places to explore (there's a mini-planet within the ship, and a chance to play a wargame where you are in a tank and must blast another tank before it blasts you), they can all be avoided, as can the many other items that can be collected. In fact, there is no need to collect any items at all in order to win the game; all you need is an assault blaster and a fairly high Initial SKILL. The planet and wargame scenes that I mentioned earlier also use up a huge amount of references, and for what purpose? It's an enormous waste of references. LUCK is hardly ever used, and you can't use it in either gunfire or hand-to-hand combat; it's as if the author, Andrew Chapman, forgot all about the use of LUCK.

Even though Space Assassin was Andrew Chapman's first attempt at writing a gamebook, it is still poor. The final paragraph, which is just three lines long, is a real anti-climax and is totally inexcusable. Actually, this gamebook isn't as bad as at least two other science fiction Fighting Fantasy gamebooks I have read, but it's certainly not the best one.

Rating: 4/10


[Robert Clive]

This one starts off as an interesting idea, but just doesn't end up working too well. Wandering around the inside of this monster ship, complete with an unexpected natural environment bubble of plants, is interesting.

However, many of the encounters are mediocre and fail to excite of interest. The main villain is a total waste. I mean, he's weak and doesn't say anything. What a shame. Could've been better!



[Robert Douglas]


Andrew Chapman is the sub-author of FF gamebook 12, 'Space Assassin'. Although the idea of casting the reader as an expert assassin was a unique touch to the character - whose mission is to infiltrate a tyrant scientist's spaceship - I found Andrew Chapman's execution of this concept very poor. While it starts off promisingly enough, it soon begins to flounder along the way. It's just not exciting nor as challenging as an assassin's mission should be. Save for some novel quirks, and a few thrilling moments, 'Space Assassin' is little more than a collectors item. Another thing, I found the end paragraph extremely disappointing - as if the author had become bored and detached from writing this gamebook altogether. One star is awarded for an original concept, another devoted to his attempt at broadening the Adventure Sheet to include Guns and Armour. Apart from that, there's not much else to credit 'Space Assassin' for.


[Ray Holt]

Sci-fi stories always seem to have had a bad reputation in Fighting Fantasy. They often present some of FFs more inventive rules - but often lack the rich background developed in the Titan books, and are rather light on plot. Space Assassin is a classic example of both.

Essentially, a mad scientist called Cyrus is about to unleash some hideous experiment on your unsuspecting home world - and you have been dispatched to stop him. You dock with Cyrus' colossal ship after the briefest of introductions, and proceed to venture through a maze of unrelated encounters until eventually you meet with Cyrus himself and - hopefully - kill him. And that's about it.

In itself, that plot is not so different from - say - Crypt of the Sorcerer, Citadel of Chaos or City of Thieves. Find the bad guy and kill him. What Space Assassin lacks is any sense of immersion in the world around you. There are no interesting or memorable characters or locations. The writing is short and to the point, and never really captures the reader's imagination - although it keeps the pace up wonderfully.

This is the major flaw with the book. The death scenes - although inventive - are often just a few lines, and when you defeat Cyrus, you get three lines of congratulation, and that's it. It hardly feels worth it. You track down a bog-standard scientist with next to no background, to save people about whom you know nothing and when as soon as you've killed him the book just stops dead.

That said, the book is not all bad. The snappy writing makes it fast-paced and suitably action-packed. The encounters are often innovative, and challenging, even if they seem to be basically unrelated. There are a few puzzles that grate a little - particularly a lengthy maze section where you find a planet-like surface within the ship, and spend an age being offered the choice of North, West, South or East over and over again. Still, the novelty of suddenly finding yourself in the middle of a vast plain has some impact.

Where Space Assassin scores very highly is in the rules it introduces. Separate rules (and quite effective rules, at that) for ranged combat - as opposed to hand-to-hand - and weapons which do different amounts of damage (even some enemies which do variable damage) make an otherwise run-of-the-mill book stand out. They are particularly well presented, and don't over-complicate the game. It's just a shame more of the books didn't adopt some of these rules.

On the whole, Space Assassin compensates for its poor overall premise with some neat rules, some clever encounters and a very fast pace. It's not enough to make this a good book, as the weak plot makes it hard to get really interested, but enough to keep it from being bad.

RATING: 5/10


[Per Jorner]

Every self-respecting local sector has a tyrannical ruling scientist, and yours is Cyrus. Recently people have got increasingly fed up with his antics, so the planetary government dispatches a fleet of space marines... or maybe just a single member of the Assassins' Guild. Bureaucracy is like that sometimes.

A find and capture mission on a sizeable spacecraft is actually a great gamebook idea, but we're not talking System Shock: the Gamebook (drool) here. There's little tension involved as the main character just sort of wanders off at random, finding himself in a Firetop Mountain or Darkwood Forest of the future. There's no explanation for why small rooms are scattered along incredibly long corridors. There's no explanation for why the assassin doesn't hack into a terminal to pinpoint Cyrus' location. There's no explanation for why you lose Skill at "the realization that you have probably murdered an innocent creature".

The extremely terse descriptions aren't as annoying as in FF16 for some reason, probably the style just fits the sf theme better. Sometimes it doesn't really work, though, like 246 where aliens are described as "fierce little easter eggs with bushes of hair", which is not an image I needed - luckily there's a decent illustration. Overall the art is OK, although the pieces are off-format, and some are intensely dull.

Gunfighting rules work surprisingly well, especially if your Skill isn't too high - 8-10 should form a nice range of difficulty settings. Note that regardless of the statement on page 15, ranged combat is the default combat mode and signalled only indirectly by cues such as "fire" or "blast". In 228 and 359 there's no indication at all, but in both cases there's good reason to believe ranged combat was intended (the fact that the robot from 228 has different stats in 20 notwithstanding). Carrying capacity is also slightly screwy. There's no indication that the cylinder key doesn't count as one item, but the game always assumes you have it after a certain point. What about the squirrel that clings to your shoulder? And when the book unambiguously tells you that you pick an item up (note for instance that 162 lacks a "none of the above" option), do you have to drop another to make room if necessary?

Space Assassin is fun while it lasts and does evoke the early days of FF. Minus some padding, some unfair deaths, the puzzle in 332 which Chapman does not claim responsibility for, and perhaps the haphazard tank minigame, it could have been better.

Rating: 5/10




Like several sci-fi Fighting Fantasies, this book suffers from genre stereotyping and difficulties in converting the high-fantasy FF concept into a different setting. It's a dungeon-crawl style adventure happening entirely onboard an enemy starship, involving a trek to find the enemy "boss" at the end.

What's done well is the conversion of FF combat for the use of laser weapons - the FF rules are modified to create quicker damage, alter the effects of skill and allow armour saving throws. This combat method "feels" very different from the usual FF melee brawls, nicely emphasising the sci-fi setting.

What's done badly is the structure of the adventure. With high initial scores, it's largely too easy - you don't need special items or information at the end, nor to beat a foe with high scores - you just need to find a way through the ship to reach it. The items are mainly red herrings or more rarely, have some minimal non-essential use on one particular random course.

What difficulty there is, comes mainly from sudden-death paragraphs which are frustratingly common and difficult to see coming, especially towards the end. Without any logical or intuitive reason for the effects (to take an example - walking straight at one dangerous opponent gets you a walkthrough, whereas trying to dodge it gets a sudden death paragraph), these can be a major irritant.

The dungeon crawl is far too one-dimensional, involving mainly a series of boring and random choices - left or right button, left right or middle passage, security door or regular door, red green or blue button, through door or down passage - which don't involve any real choice for the player, effectively being matters of luck.

The book also almost completely lacks a plot, the aliens are of B-movie standard (really, in the post Star Wars world we can do better than manic squirrels and cleaners with carrots for ears!), and there's an unexplained and largely inexplicable relapse into a high-fantasy world within the starship on one common course (what's a mass of woods, fields and plains doing on a starship anyway?!).

I'd suggest Robot Commando, Rebel Planet and Star Strider as better examples of sci-fi FF done well.


[Jeff Poteralski]

This book takes place on the floating spacebarge the Vandervecken, and your job is to infiltrate the spaceship and kill Cyrus, the maniac mechanical madman. This book had an excellent idea, but the story itself just fell flat.  There were a number of reasons why I didn't like this book.

First of all, the correct way through is extremely short (maybe only 40 real passages).  Secondly, I won this book on my first try, which to me is a sign of great ease. Thirdly, you don't need any special items or knowledge to win, just a blaster and a strong SKILL score.  Fourthly, the final batlle is against a character with a SKILL 9, STAMINA 12.  Ho Humm.  I can see why no one bothered to write a review for this book before.

Rating: 2.5/10


[Todd Stigliano]

There's a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where Sigourney Weaver's character is unable to grasp why crushing metal hammers and walls of fire exist on her ship for no reason other than providing an obstacle for her and the Captain (played by Tim Allen) to walk through. In fact, she's even unaware that she answers her own question. The movie's very funny premise involves an alien race picking up broadcasts of an old sci-fi tv series (called "Galaxy Quest") and mistaking them for actual Earth history. They go so far as to model their race after the show's morals and construct an exact replica of the ship - complete with the hammers and fire just outside the Engineering Room. Allen and Weaver's characters are able to escape this obstacle thanks to communication with a dedicated fan back home who knows every episode of the series and is able to talk them through.

Andrew Chapman's Space Assassin (number 12 in the Fighting Fantasy series) sets some similar obstacles for the reader. One of the many rooms in a mad scientist's spaceship places the only exit door on the opposite wall - with numbered tiles on the floor and a message: "Step on the wrong tile and it's goodbye" (332). Indeed, such a warning begs the hypothesis that, maybe, in every gamebook, video game, and even sci-fi story in general, mad scientists don't have a tragic, insane flaw that contributes to their downfall as much as a repressed streak of altruism... that manifests itself in cryptic hints.

Still, terror-tiled floors and other mad scientist do-it-yourselfs aren't really what make this book re-readable. The eclectic population of aliens and robots within the ship (Cyrus, the mad scientist, travels all over the galaxy stealing creatures for his experiments) provides for interesting - and philosophically steamy - encounters as long as the reader's character doesn't shoot everything first.

The high CF for this book is due only to these encounters, and, of course, to meeting Cyrus himself. Mapped out, this gamebook provides an excellent framework for at least two rpg sessions for players who don't want to practice any complex spaceship battles. Also, if they somehow defeat Cyrus, the players could find themselves riding a huge campaign hook...


[John Stock]

Space Assassin, by Andrew Chapman, is one of the most repugnant FF books in the series. It is a sci-fi adventure, and while I don't mind about that the sci-fi FFs tend to not be as good as the standard high fantasy ones.

Now the plot is good, if a little standard sci-fi like - a mad scientist who goes by the name of Cyrus has created a deadly plague which he intends to drop onto your planet. And your job is to infiltrate his orbiting space station. This gives cause for a sci-fi Deathtrap Dungeon adventure. Problem is, it's just not as good as the standard DTD.

Here's why - there's some very good ideas, namely the different grades of guns and things you can have, the variety of alien races that abound and the encounters - portable robotic pillboxes armed with machine-guns, anyone?

However, gripes abound - the simplicity of it all for one. It is far too easy to beat this adventure - all you need is a large SKILL score and a big gun. There is a dearth of puzzles or information you have to find out. And worst of all, the ending is a mere THREE LINES. Not satisfactory at all.

So, unless you need it, don't get it. If you see it, get it if you want, but I wouldn't myself.

MY RATING - 3.9/10


[Steven Taylor]

Space Assassin was just the second ever Sci-Fi book in the series, and the first entry from Andrew Chapman.  I always thought of the Sci-Fi books in the series as a good bit of variety.  Sadly, there are not many in the series.  Thankfully, they are not all as bad as Space Assassin.

But first, lets talk positives. The concept of the book is quite good.  A sci-fi labrynth is an excellent concept.  I would love a book like Deathtrap Dungeon set in the far future with strange technological traps and devices.  There are also quite a lot of good ideas here, such as the planet within the ship, and the different guns you can buy.  The rules for armour and gunfire add an extra element to the book.  Trying to blast a carnivorous plant to pieces before you get dragged into its mouth is quite exciting.

For all its good ideas, Space Assassin falls apart in execution.  Andrew Chapman has written this book poorly. In places, the descriptions he gives in the book are disgraceful.  Take, for example, the Zark, described to us as "toting a whopping great disintegrator" (373).  This language was fine when I was a kid, but I am older now, and reading this is embarrassing.

Space Assassin is too easy.  Almost any path you take can get you  to the end.  Sure, one path is safer than the others, but the enemies are weak in this book anyway, so decent starting roles should see you through safely to the finish.  Then, when you do reach the end, its pathetic (three lines do not constitute a good finish).

To conclude, Space Assassin is a book with some neat ideas but fails poorly in execution.  A sci-fi Deathtrap Dungeon would be great, but this one falls short of the mark. Buy it if you must, but I do not recommend it unless you need it for the set.

Rating: 6.0/10