FF27: Star Strider

Nicholas Campbell
Robert Clive
Jason Smith
Will Turton


[Nicholas Campbell]

You are a Rogue Tracer (also known as a Star Strider) - the futuristic equivalent of a bounty hunter. Your latest mission, should you choose to accept it, is to travel to Earth and locate President Xerin of the Galaxy One Federation, who has been kidnapped by a race of humanoids known as the Gromulans, who have largely taken over Earth. They are scanning his brain in an attempt to make him reveal the computer defence codes belonging to the Empire of the Purple Flag, and if they succeed, the Empire is doomed. You have only 48 hours to locate him.

It's not clear how far into the future Star Strider is set, but I will say now that I am not a fan of the science fiction genre of gamebooks. Luke Sharp (whose real name is Alkis Alkiviades) seems to have used the futuristic setting to include all sorts of bizarre (albeit sometimes amusing) concepts. For instance, the Gromulans like creating illusions, playing chess and eating snails! Many of the remaining humans on Earth are also members of tribes known as Houlgans, who show their allegiance to their tribe by wearing coloured clothing, especially scarves, and "base their fanaticism on some long-forgotten religion". It made me laugh!

It's a shame that there isn't much else to laugh about regarding Star Strider. The book sees you travelling between four European cities - Madrid, Rome, Paris and London - in an attempt to uncover clues as to the President's location. There are several places where these can be found, and the book is very open-ended, so there are lots of ways that it can be completed. Unfortunately, the cities seem very similar to each other, and the gamebook in general lacks excitement - every other meeting seems to be with yet another Android, and the few human characters that you meet feel rather flat. There are also far too many situations where you can die instantly by making the wrong choice, and a lot of the time, making the correct choice is a matter of guesswork. The final stage of the book consists of a maze representing the London Underground, but there's very little inside it, which makes it a very boring experience.

That said, Star Strider can be completed with minimal Initial scores, and it'll take you a lot of attempts to work out how to achieve this. Interestingly, there is nothing in the rules to suggest that your SKILL, STAMINA and LUCK scores are restricted in any way, so you can increase them above your Initial level, and in the case of LUCK, increase it to frankly ridiculous levels. The TIME score could have been better implemented; even if you take a very long route, it's quite unlikely that you'll run out of time. The FEAR attribute was a nice addition, and the ability to Test your Fear Factor and lose STAMINA points if you failed was used to good effect throughout the gamebook, although perhaps it could have been used slightly more often.

Even if you're a fan of science fiction, I doubt that you will like Star Strider much. Completing it was a huge struggle for me; I lost interest in what was going on after a few tries, and the instant deaths were really irritating.

Rating: 3/10


[Robert Clive]

I never liked this one that much. The setting is quite mediocre and doesn't inspire much excitement in the mission. There's not much drama, the writing is okay, the internal drawings are average, the mission is too easy in some parts (you can find the two pieces of information you need to finish the book in the SAME place), too hard in others (that unforgiving, killer, London Underground bit at the end).

The front cover is great; colourful and interesting. However, I didn't think the rest of the book matched it. An average FF book in all..



[Jason Smith]

Star Strider is one of those FF gamebooks that, despite a potentially interesting story, just doesn't come together very well. The book is set in a sci-fi future in our own universe, presumably about 200 years plus (it doesn't give an exact date, but technology is quite advanced and Aliens, called 'Gromulans', have been living on the Earth for about 100 years).

You are an elite 'Rogue Tracer' (sometimes known as a 'Star Strider'), and, like the old-fashioned Earth Bounty Hunters, you track and capture dangerous criminals for money. You're also armed with the standard Rogue Tracer weapon; a 'Catchman' handgun, which (yes, you've guessed it) you shoot the criminals, entangling them in a chemical, glue-like net to capture them (who thinks up these gadgets!?)

Your main enemies are the Gromulans, who are experts in android technology and small electronic devices which create powerful illusions called Illus-o-scopes. They also like playing Chess and eating small Earth snails!!? The Gromulans inhabit large areas of Earth (a near deserted, backwater planet, now everyone has moved offworld)

Recently, those nasty Gromulans have kidnapped the Galactic President, in an attempt to Brain-Scan some highly secret codes out of his head. President Xerin's head contains computer defense codes, which, if the Gromulans are able to Brain-Scan them out, will surely fall into the hands of the hated enemy; the Empire of the Purple Flag, resulting in an invasion, death, destruction, slavery and the end of the known universe, etc, etc (didn't it occur to the President's deputy to change the defence codes after he'd been kidnapped!?)

So, you've been given the task of finding the President, bringing him home unharmed, within a time limit of 48 time units (if you take longer and the Gromulans will break the President, extracting the defense codes). To do this, you have to visit Earth, travel to different cities and discover clues to his location.

OK, here we go. I have to admit, this certainly isn't  what I'd term a satisfying read. I personally didn't think that the story was very imaginative or written very well. Also, the characters, especially the President, were totally two-dimensional, without much character at all!

Another thing I didn't like about this book was that it isn't balanced very well either. The enemies you cross paths with are few and far between, generally being pretty unchallenging. One excessively unfair exception to this rule are some androids; Excel class to be exact. These droids are so lethal, you're killed or captured automatically whenever you meet one that doesn't like you. It's quite annoying, you're not even given a chance (hey, why didn't they use an Excel Android to rescue the President)!

Then there is your naff collection of weapons you get to use. To say naff is an under statement, considering most of the time you fight with your bear hands. Even when you get your sweaty little hands on a Neutron Sword, it's hardly worth the effort; it does as much damage as fighting without a weapon as you don't get given a bonus! The one highlight is your prized 'Catchman' pistol, which you lovingly keep clean and in good working order. Bit of a waste of time really; it only works properly half the bloody time!

One of the most distracting things about this book is the general lack of direction. You just seem to travel around aimlessly, from city to city, without any real sense of direction or purpose, picking up information here and there. There are only a couple of pieces of information you need to discover the location of the President and, through the mission, you get a number of chances to retrieve each one anyway. Most of the time it feels like you can just automatically stumble on important clues whatever you do, rather than having to actively seek them out!

Altogether, I'd say that this book will never be remembered as a classic. It's OK, nothing really memorable. I finished it feeling relieved it was over, rather than satisfied I'd had a really good adventure. I'm sure the author tried his best at writing a good gamebook. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bit of a turkey.

Rating: 4.0/10


[Will Turton]

I must say I prefer the Titan setting for the gamebooks than the Science Fiction setting of Star Strider, Space Assassin and *gulp* Starship Traveller. I happened to find FF27 in a Second Hand Bookshop in 1999 and thought it would be nice to add to my collection seeing as the books had disappeared from WHSmith's.

I was pleasantly surprised by Star Strider however and found it to be an above average gamebook. The plot is fairly straight forward, you must rescue the President of the Galaxy One Federation and prevent the Groms, a highly intelligent race of humanoids who delight in illusions. If he is not rescued, the defence codes of the nation will be sold to your enemies, the Empire of the Purple Flag. Good Name. I wonder who thought that up?

You are a Rogue Tracer, a kind of Space Detective on a slightly more important mission. On your travels, you get to go to Earth and possibly earn some more credits (the currency) by capturing and 'tagging' the felons. In the book, you have to contend with a government fond of illusions, bad public transport, pretty terrible food and so on. Quite funny, even if you don't notice some similarities to the situation in the United Kingdom currently. But I digress...

In this adventure, you get a special statistic...FEAR. You can actually lose Stamina points from FEAR, something I thought was terribly appropriate. You also have a certain amount of time to complete the adventure and save the President so missing one of the highly infrequent Silverhound SpaceBuses can be fatal.

There are a few faults in Star Strider, one of which is an exploration of the London Underground. Yes, that's right. The Tube. Unsurprisingly, it's very boring and long-winded. When you eventually find an exit, you end up dying on the next paragraph. The only other fault that stands out to me at least is the illustrations, drawn by Gary Mayes. I'm not saying they're not very good, I just don't like his drawings.

Star Strider is otherwise a good read, especially for those who like FF Books not set in Titan.

Score: 7/10