Children of the eighties who spent anytime playing role-playing games may remember the names Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson. They were the co-creators of Fighting Fantasy, a popular series of books that I loved as a kid. Fighting Fantasy was a hybrid between Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and Dungeons & Dragons that only required two dice, a pencil and your wits! I collected the first thirty or so of these books, but the one I'd like to focus on now was the tenth release called House of Hell.
House of Hell was unique in that it was the only Fighting Fantasy book that took place in present day, and had a story rooted in the horror genre. This, of course, appealed to me greatly. It starts with a familiar scenario with your car breaking down in a storm and thus seek shelter at a nearby estate.
The house's occupant, a shady character named Drumer, welcomes you in, but things almost immediately go bad.
You then spend the rest of your adventure trying to avoid a grisly death at the hands of Drumer, his cult of Satanists and the many other ghastly creatures that inhabit the house.
For shits and giggles, I decided to play through it and see if it was as difficult as I remember it being. It was, and gave up after dying about a dozen times. What makes House of Hell tougher than other FF books is that not only do you have to fight your way through all manner of dark adversaries - at a disadvantage I might add, as it is some time before you even find a weapon with which to defend yourself - but it also hits you with a fear meter. If you are not careful, you can literally be scared to death! This is on top of the countless fatal dead ends you are faced with along the way.
The thing I really dig about House of Hell is the art provided by Tim Sell. I love how many of his abominations seem to be bursting out of their frames, as if even the page cannot confine them.
I tried to find something online about the controversy surrounding this book when I was young. I seem to remember seeing a news story about how this book was apparently cursed, and had caused a kid who read it to commit suicide. Maybe that was why House of Hell was later reissued as House of Hades. Because that's less real, somehow. Circa 1984, it was the RPG's turn to be blamed for all the world's problems.
That one above was actually removed from later editions for being too risqué.
Livingstone & Jackson kept my imagination flourishing for many, many years and their fantasy empire continues to this day. There has also been a House of Hell movie in the works for quite sometime, but it, at this point, still remains in development hell. You can get more info on that, by going here.
Also, for those who'd like to try their hand at some online Fighting Fantasy-inspired CYOA's, click here.