07 November 2018
You must choose… but choose wisely
The Choose Your Own Adventure books – and the eponymous genre of gamebooks they spawned – have been a staple of childhoods for decades since they first turned to page 11 in the 1970s. This game, based on the original House of Danger paperback, hopes to update the series for a new generation – as well as no doubt inviting grown-up fans to return for another run along its branching paths.
House of Danger sticks diligently to its source material – much of the text on each of the game’s story cards appears to be taken directly from the book’s pages, and the whole set is lathered in a retro ‘70s look with off-white backgrounds and stark monochrome illustrations. Original fan or not, it’s a beautiful tribute to the legacy of the series – albeit stored in a thoroughly crap box insert that undoes some of the goodwill earned by the components.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has ever flicked through a choose-your-own-adventure book, with players following breadcrumb trails of page numbers through a variety of encounters. Despite the faithful recreation of the book, there is more of a game present here, with a roleplaying-lite introduction of die rolls to determine the outcome of some events and the ability to obtain items and clue cards that can have an effect in later scenes and chapters. Two basic stats – psychic and danger – shift up and down as players pass or fail rolls, further affecting their chance of survival later on. It’s light enough not to get in the way, while managing to feel interactive enough to justify the transformation.
Even so, there’s rarely a sense of real danger or challenge. If a player dies, the game jumps back to the previous card, like a reader pretending they actually meant to choose the other option. It saves you having to replay an entire chapter again, but it takes away from the weight of your decisions and limits the reasons to return to a game that already feels somewhat on rails, despite the branching routes through.
Still, it’s worth seeing once, not least to (re)discover the increasingly strange directions in which original author R.A. Montgomery took his inventive tale. The weirdness can be fun to uncover as a group, but House of Danger is best experienced as a solo endeavour, as there’s no extra effort made to cater for the ‘plus’ end of the suggested ‘one-plus’ player count – it’s the same game with one person or 99, just with the story cards being passed around, stretching the experience out without real benefit.
With five chapters to go through, persistent items and decisions helping to bind the lot together, House of Danger offers up a good few hours of interesting storytelling and entertaining quirks to seek out, but it’s unlikely to hold a lot of staying power for most players. Nevertheless, it’s as clean to play as it is to look at, and might just hit the sweet spot for RPG-loving parents and younger kids looking to be able to control their adventure. Not quite a new classic, then, but a respectable modern makeover for a story that’s lost little of its magic.
It’s light and will run its course over just a few plays – that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to pick up this charming tribute to an iconic series and experience it anew, for the first or 500th time.
Designer: Prospero Hall
Time: 60 minutes
This review originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
Sometimes we may include links to online retailers, from which we might receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate links do not influence editorial coverage and will only be used when covering relevant products.