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House of Hell


Images:
House of Hell (original cover)
(original cover)
House of HellHouse of Hell (American cover)
(American cover)
House of Hell
Series:Fighting Fantasy #10
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 1) #7
Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 2) #9
Alternate Title:House of Hades (American edition)
Contained In:Fighting Fantasy Box Set 2
Fighting Fantasy Box Set 3
Translated Into:Az elátkozott ház (Hungarian)
La casa infernale (Italian)
Das Höllenhaus (German)
Jigoku no yakata [地獄の館] (Japanese)
Le manoir de l'enfer (French)
Mansão das trevas (Portuguese)
A mansão diabólica (Portuguese)
La mansión infernal (Spanish)
Pekelný dům (Czech)
Rædslernes hus (Danish)
Adapted From:The House of Hell (Mini-Adventure)
Author:Steve Jackson (United Kingdom)
Illustrators:Ian Miller (original cover)
R. Courtney (American cover)
Nicholas Halliday (reissue cover)
Tim Sell (interior)
Release Dates:November, 1984 (original)
June, 1985 (American edition)
December 2, 2002 (reissue)
August, 2004 (American reissue)
ISBNs:
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0140318313 / 9780140318319 (original)
0440936861 / 9780440936862 (American edition)
1840464178 / 9781840464177 (reissue)
Length:400 sections
Number of Endings:20
Summary:Your car breaks down in an isolated area on a rainy night, forcing you to take shelter at the nearest house, which unfortunately is brimming over with evil!
Demian's Thoughts:
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This is one of the first Fighting Fantasy books I ever read, and it made a strong impression. The modern-day horror setting makes it stand out from the pack, and the comfortably ghoulish illustrations give it a great deal of flavor. Needless to say, I greatly looked forward to replaying it after many years... and not too surprisingly, I was left feeling rather disappointed.

Atmosphere aside, House of Hell is not a story -- it's pure puzzle. There's no real plot, just random horror cliches that stagger out of the darkness at you. Tidbits of knowledge about the house and its occupants are revealed through exploration, but it never comes together into anything like a satisfying narrative. This would be okay if the puzzle underlying the book's semblance of plot were fun to solve, but it's yet another exercise in frustration.

The author deserves some credit for being merciful in terms of combat -- there are no insanely difficult fights necessary to win, so once you find the true path, you have a reasonable chance of succeeding. However, the problem is that finding the true path is incredibly tedious. The house is a spiderweb of passages, making it extremely difficult to map in any kind of methodical way... and a map doesn't necessarily help, because victory also requires a number of specific actions to be taken at specific times, some of them counterintuitive. As far as I can tell, the only way to solve this is to reverse-engineer the whole book... and by the time you've spent that much time and effort, you no longer have any interest in the paper-thin plot. At least, that was my experience -- after picking at this book on and off for literally years, I gave in to an Internet walkthrough just to end my misery. I could have solved it on my own eventually... but why would I want to bother?

There is one other thing worth noting about this adventure -- it's probably the most-censored gamebook ever published. In America, it was retitled to eliminate the word "Hell" from the title. In Britain, later printings of the book removed an illustration of a (tastefully positioned) naked sacrificial victim. Interestingly, this picture was included in the retitled American printing but remains absent in the recent Wizard Books reissue.

drystan's Thoughts:
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When I first read many years ago La Casa Infernale, the Italian version of House of Hell, I was really impressed.

Although I unsuccessfully tried to solve it two or three times (alas, at that time there where no Internet spoilers...) the whole book's atmosphere was weird and whimsical enough to touch with a faint scare even the gamebooks' devourer I was at those times.

But then... as I tried hard to finally solve the book I totally lost the sense of the story: in fact, House of Hell is so puzzling you can't concentrate on the storyline AND solving the book. There are so many actions you MUST perform in the unique right sequence in the UNIQUE right moment that it becomes somewhat frustrating, even for a standard FF gamebook, in which (unlike Joe Dever's Lone Wolf, for instance) collecting items and performing right actions is a sort of "brand" of the series.

Moreover HOH presents a major flaw, in my opinion: in order to solve the book, you HAVE, in first attempts, to choose wrong ways (leading you to death, sooner or later) to gather pieces of information and knowledge you need to succed.

Really a shame, because the book, and its great graphics, should have been a rare pearl of horror gamebooks.

My advice: throw away HOH and pick Forbidden Gateway instead...

Fireguard's Thoughts:
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Looks like it's my turn to be odd man out. I fault nobody for their opinions, but I liked House of Hell. For starters, it's a book set on modern-day Earth. While your skill rolls might make you a hardy warrior, because society as we know it isn't yet overrun by bandits and monsters you start out the book unarmed and unequipped to fight a cult of devil-worshippers. Right off the bat that prepared me for something different, and I'm of the unshakable opinion that different isn't always bad. I had some issues with the rules -- I thought the idea of a fear statistic was implemented much better in later books such as Beneath Nightmare Castle and Keep of the Lich-Lord, and the bonus for using a certain item during the final battle seemed to contradict the rules about exceeding your initial Skill -- but all in all things could've been worse.

Being as this is a Steve Jackson book, there's one "right" path to victory and lots of blind alleys, but unlike Magehunter or Crimson Tide I never felt like I played for ages and gained nothing except the knowledge the author didn't want me to go that way. At least this book and Appointment with F.E.A.R. take on settings nobody else ever did. I won't say I wasn't frustrated at times trying to find the "right" way through the house, but I found the setting effective and the tidbits gained on my failed attempts helpful or at least interesting, making it fun to explore the next room and forgive the book for killing me. I had to find the right items and clues to survive, as in a lot of other Fighting Fantasy books, but it didn't feel like a scavenger hunt. I never stopped feeling like I was in a haunted house, the book never seemed like nothing but a puzzle. That would be Curse of the Mummy, where I had to constantly stop and transliterate a name into numbers to be able to move on. And it's not as if the path to victory is piled underneath a plethora of cheap monsters like in Curse of the Pharaoh.

House of Hell is what it is, love it or hate it.

noonxnoon's Thoughts:
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This is my first Fighting Fantasy book, and needless to say, I am glad I learned about this series from this site!

Quick background, back in the '80s, I was deeply involved with game books and spent countless hours reading & rereading them.

In my adult years, I had forgotten about them and grew on to other things.

I found this site and reading all the reviews, good & bad, has reenergized me and brings me back to some of the happier times in my childhood.

On to the review!

I am quite pleased with my initial foray into the FF series. I have to concur with another reviewer's comments about it being more 'reality' based -- you are just somebody that got caught in a storm driving and happened to knock on the wrong door for help!

It was fun to take my time with this book... first doing basic read through until dice rolls were needed to get a feel for the book.

Then during my 1-hour lunch breaks, I'd break out the book, dice, paper & pencil and foray into the House of Hell.

This was a quite enjoyable approach compared to my early days of gamebooks of spending a complete day or two doing nothing else but trying to finish the book.

Each day was an interesting challenge and intrigue of mapping the house... passing by some doors in one setting... then the next day evaluating the map and figuring out where to send the next 'victim' to learn more about the House and the events going on.

While most of the side stories & events are not required to complete the book, I am glad the author went the extra mile to give more backdrops into the dealing of the house. It provided more depth and made me want to explore more of the house... even though it might have been a dead-end... it made things all the more colorful.

Just an odd aside... but I always wondered how a 'Satanist' could wear a severed goat head? The logistics are practically impossible... animal heads are much smaller then an adult head... and what are the people looking out of? Popping the goat eyes out and after the ceremony, they all take baths to wash off all that dried blood caked into their hair?

Well, back to the book... game play was good... wasn't too excessive of 'random monsters' to fight. Fear is a nice touch, and a few times I was frightened to death. I like how FF has Luck involved... where eventually you will run out of luck.

I felt the story was well written... frustrating at times to map when things would lead back to other areas you had been before.

I have to admit... I did require an online walk-through to help me finish the book. I had been so well trained with the other gamebooks that if a choice wasn't obviously stated, I never would have guessed about how to figure out the secret passage trick. Plus my mapping wasn't detailed enough to catch another trick the author used to hide the iron key. Makes me realize there is more thinking I need to do when reading other FF books... which I find as a great plus. As an adult, it is harder to be as captivated as I was before reading some of those fantasy books.

All in all... I highly recommend this book and suggest taking your time to take nibbles when adventuring... make a map... explore around a bit... then come back the next day by reviewing your map and then figuring out what is important and what isn't.

Have fun and stay away from the white wine!!

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Users Who Want This Item:bookwormjeff (UK), Cyan, Gallicus, Grifter, Househeart, JiPi, killagarilla, Lambchop, laserpotato, Mr ?, mrwalker, NEMO (original ,yellowpuffin), NEMO (reissue), ThisIslandEarth, twar, Waluigi Freak 99, xinuz, yermither
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twar: (UK) second cover with yellow dagger logo. Basically mint copy. One small crease on back cover. Old owner penned name on back of front cover.
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