Tuesday, June 18, 2024

It's Not the Konami Code

I have just finished Ian Livingstone's 2022 Fighting Fantasy gamebook Shadow of the Giants. It's not too bad! The main issue is that for the most part there's only an illusion of meaningful choice; decisions either loop back to the point where the choice was made so you can get back on the correct path, or they don't matter because either option has a roughly equivalent effect on later events. As a result things do feel a bit basic and linear, but also more gentle than the Sir Ian of old, who would not hesitate to punish incorrect choices with a gleeful "Your adventure ends here."

(There is one very arbitrary choice towards the end that feels like 1980's Ian, but it's the only occurrence I found.)

So the "game" part is a bit easy and flat, but the "book" part is quite strong. There are some interesting ideas and a few evocative sequences, and there are a handful of compelling characters met along the way. The quest is an interesting one, local in scale but still with real stakes, and I appreciate the twist (revealed early on) about the cause of the calamity. I give it three Yaztromos out of five.

I finished it on my second try. The first attempt was scuppered by one puzzle towards the end. See if you can solve it:

"You see a three-by-three boxed grid carved into the rock wall with each box containing a number."


The book gives us a clue:
"Up down
Left right
Say the number
See the light"

You're then supposed to turn to the paragraph number that matches the solution to progress further. Or, you know, give up and start again. If you want.

After a bit of searching I found the solution online, but I can't work out how you're supposed to get to that solution. These books are aimed at children so I should be able to grok it, but it's gone right over my head! Perhaps my brain is fried after my incident.

I have worked out one way to get to the correct answer -- I'll put it in the comments -- but it feels wonky and I'm not convinced it's the intended solution.

What do you reckon? What am I missing?


  1. rotas

    1. Yeah, I needed that clue too...

    2. This feels like the sort of thing everyone is supposed to know, like the riddle of the sphinx, but it was new to me!

    3. If it makes you feel any better, I don't recall ever seeing the 5-word palindrome before, and I had to Google that before I even understood how to connect it back to the riddle! :)

    4. I knew the SATOR square well, but even then it took me far too long to make the connection!

  2. "Up down left right" has 15 letters, which is the correct answer, but I can't imagine that's the intended solution.