FF17: Appointment with F.E.A.R.

Per Jorner
Mark J. Popp
Stephen Porter
Doug Riddell
John Stock
William Vanderwhelm


[Per Jorner]

This is the first and only superhero FF, unless you count brief appearances such as... um... well, maybe not. (A follow-up was printed in Warlock 12, though.) YOU are the Silver Crusader and get to choose between four superpowers: strength and flying, psi-powers, gadgetry or energy blasts. Depending on which power you pick you get to start with various clues, and are then sent out into the streets to battle villains (of which there are many) and find more clues. Which criminals you can successfully apprehend and whether or not you'll get anything useful out of them also depends on your chosen power, and so the path to victory will be different for each.

Clues come in three different kinds. Some of them contain more or less subtle information to help you make the right choice when faced with multiple options; these can be used in any future games, reducing the number of critical stops. Others contain secret references which will help you find villains who in turn may hold vital information. The third are the numerical elements that must be combined to find the F.E.A.R. meeting at the end and win.

Steve Jackson once again created something original with a high puzzle factor. For all its 440 sections it doesn't rank among his best titles; apprehending the criminals isn't always very satisfying in itself, and finding the right clues is mostly a process of trial and error. There's not much in the way of pervading atmosphere, unless you count the general "golden age" cheesiness of the villains and their schemes. But there's still some fun to be had, at least if you're into superhero comics, and the book is certainly a fine technical accomplishment. The art (laid out in panels) grew on me a little, although the fillers are just dull. Some things that might have livened the book up: hearing about or meeting other superheroes; slightly extended battles with arch-enemies (one for each power, maybe); using the Hero Point system along the lines of the Honour score in FF20; Grant Morrison (well, this was before his time).

There's a new rule which doesn't really make sense: if you reduce someone's Stamina to 1 or 2 points, they surrender and combat ends, but if you reduce it to 0, they die and you lose 1 Hero Point. Since there's no reason to bring anyone's Stamina to 0 (why spend a Luck point to lose a Hero Point?), this just means human enemies effectively have 2 less Stamina. To top it off, the book doesn't take into account that you might ever kill anyone, but lets you arrest and interrogate the "dead" villains. Speaking of the Hero Point scoring system I found it rather pointless and stopped using it even before I had won. If you want to squeeze every last drop out of the book, you can try to maximize your final score for each power. I'd save that for a very rainy day, though.

Quick notes: In paragraph 126, the words "when the President is due to arrive" are misleading; you should use the secret reference as soon as you arrive at the scene in question (where it says "the presidential car is still not due to arrive"). Using the current date as a numerical component is confusing, because even if the player doesn't know what day it is, the Silver Crusader jolly well should, and in any case it has nothing to do with the task at hand. It would make about as much sense to expect the player to find the Crusader's shoe size. Why does the picture of the Mummy show him wearing bandages? It's noteworthy that in only one case is there an obvious similarity to an existing villain, and that one is particularly striking: there's a Marvel circus villain called the Ringmaster who even looks exactly the same as the one in the book (who is also mentioned once by the name of "Captain Menagerie").

Rating: 6/10


[Mark J. Popp]

This book is based on a great idea -- playing the part of a superhero -- but it falls apart in the execution. The story seems oddly disconnected, and a little editing would have been useful in some places. Although there are some cool references (names and places are parodies of other superheroes), it seems like you are moving from one place to the other until the F.E.A.R meeting. The book is also extremely difficult to solve because you must collect clues during the course of your adventure, some of which are very subtle, in order to find the location of the F.E.A.R. meeting. You can check out the solution below, because by the time you figure it out, you'll either be frustrated or bored. With all the loose ends, I cannot recommend it as highly as I would some of the other books.

Rating: 6.5/10


[Stephen Porter]


Unlike the vast majority of other books in the Fighting Fantasy Series, "Appointment With F.E.A.R." doesn't have you wielding swords in the direction of orcs and hobgoblins. On the contrary, this title has you as a superhero in a city not unlike New York trying to catch villains and fight crime while ultimately thwarting the evil plans of the F.E.A.R. organisation.

Rather than follow a fairly linear path as in many of the other books, this title has basically 4 different paths to follow depending on which superpower you chose. Some sidequests can only be solved with a certain power and often you have to choose which crime to solve and guess whether it will ultimately lead you to the heart of F.E.A.R. or just be a wild goose chase.

All in all this is a refreshing and very well designed break from the traditional Fighting fantasy style and one of the few that I have read countless times and not got sick of. Highly recommended for fans and non-fans alike!


[Doug Riddell]

Now most FF Gamebooks are set on the magical world of Titan, and if not they're generally set in the future or some other science-fiction setting.

This one however, is set in neither. It's set in the present day real world, where a superhero fights crime in a large United States city. And this brave defender of millions of innocent citizens...is YOU. (However it's clear Steve Jackson's still into Titan because he set this story in "Titan" City and later in the story one has the oppurtunity to purchase "The Warlock of Firetop Mt"!)

Basically this adventure is a superhero adventure. And a very good one at that too!

When you were born, your birth was an anxious moment because your parents were part of an American top-secret genetics project. Intended to enhance untapped human superpowers, and you were the result. However the success of the experiment (i.e. your powers) are so secret even the other members of the project don't know about them. So to this day you thwart criminals and stand up for human justice behind a mask. Going under the alias, the Silver Crusader.

But now The Crusaders' biggest challenge has arrived. F.E.A.R. - the Federation of Euro-American Rebels is launching a campaign to take over the western world, starting with your home town! With the aid of grasses, scattered clues and captured criminals eager for plea-bargaining, you only have a few days left to stop them. N.B. I wasn't quite accurate earlier when I said set in the present-day, the cold war between West v East is still here.

So if...er...WHEN you succeed you can truly say you saved the world from FEAR itsself!

Notice I haven't specificed what kind of powers the Crusader has? That's because it's YOUR choice, that's another beauty of Steve Jackson's one of many clever brainchilds. I won't tell you exactly what, but you can basically choose any kind of superhero trait you can think of (or useful equivilents).

And because of the style, good illustrations, humour and four possible different adventures (with the different powers), I believe this book is worth at least...

Rating: 9/10


[John Stock]

This is probably the most cringeworthy FF Book of the lot. It is set in a city on (modern) Earth called Titan City. This is a weird crossbreed of London and New York. And you, Jean Lafayette, humble office worker by day, moonlight as the Silver Crusader, with super-powers. In fact you're a kind of hybrid James Bond and Superman. You have a neat little device called the Crimewatch, which is like a pager in a watch, and a contact called Gerry the Grass (honest!) who informs on the criminals.

Now, a bunch of terrorists called the F.E.A.R are planning to take over the US Star Wars SDI satellite and use it to eradicate all the major cities and hold the world to ransom, blah-di-blah-di-blah, and only you can stop them. What a surprise.

The interesting thing about this book is its, well, twistedness of names. You can visit a theme park called "Wisnayland", inspect the high-security prison "Woodworm Scrubs", visit a musical called "Rats" by Lloyd Webber-Andrews, and even buy a copy of FF1 at a bookshop. Oh, Steve Jackson, you are a cracker.

One of my likings about this book is its inventive scoring system, or "Hero Points". As well as infiltrating the F.E.A.R meeting to root out the big cheese, you also get points for being heroic and beating little criminals. But don't waste too much time or you'll not have found out all the clues to the locations of the F.E.A.R meeting and thus will lose.

However, a big gripe with this FF is the fact that it is, well, too much like a novelisation of a bad comic book. It also lacks a certain je ne sais quoi and doesn't really fit in with other FFs.

So, to sum up, a mixed bag really. Likeable but cringeworthy.

MY RATING - 7.4/10


[William Vanderwhelm]


Appointment With Fear differs from your ordinary Fighting Fantasy adventure. Here, you take on the role of the Silver Crusader, a superhero dedicated to ridding evil. You are based in Titan City, a place teeming with evil villains, some as powerful as yourself. Your goal in this adventure is to locate the secret meeting of the evil FEAR organization and capture its leader, Vladimir Utoshki, better known as the Titanium Cyborg. The book plays like your typical superhero adventure, and will delight fans of the genre. The book is very replayable too, in that you are allowed to choose your superpower. You can choose between having super strengh, psi abilities, the ability to shoot energy from your fingertips, or be able to create high tech gadgets that will get you out of tight situations. After reading the book with one of these abilities, you can reread it and choose another. The adventure is spent trying to gain clues as to the whereabouts of FEAR's secret meeting, and is a little on the difficult side. The author (Steve Jacson) also introduces a HERO point system. For performing various heroic feats, you can gain HERO points, but they are merely a guide as to how well you have done in the adventure. Your main goal is to defeat FEAR. All in all, if you are a fan of superheros or mysteries, this book will not dissapoint.