THE job interview from Hell
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 8, 2020
THE ALCHEMISTS FOLLY BY VICTORIA HANCOX
I played Nightshift, Victoria’s first gamebook, last year when it came out. It was dark, full of gothic horror and all matters of sinister goings on. And many inventive ways to die. Its definitely put me off hospitals for a while (which is not a bad thing at the moment). I gave it 4.5/5 in an amazon review (which meant it got 4 stars – which I regret now and would happily add the extra star if I could).
So you will be expecting more gothic horror rooted in science. Well suffice to say, Victoria has stayed true to previous form.
I am sure a lot of people will have had job interviews that didn’t go so well. I know I have. You may even described them as “job interviews from hell”. Well, unless you have experienced an interview that actively tries to kill you, then I suspect that after reading that you will need to re-assess your own hellish experiences. Forgetting how to talk in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation won’t seem that bad.
In this gamebook you head for a job interview at a large biochemical company, run by a very famous but reclusive professor. But this job could make your career and lead to fame and prestige in your field. And so you are willing to go for a full days interview. You probably envisage horrid team building exercises, interviews and paper exercises as serious scientists with pens and clipboards assess your every move.
However it’s not going to be that easy. Instead from the start you find yourself in an escape room, and are told not to touch certain things. What to do? Obey the orders, or show initiative? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself. Assuming you escape the room, then that’s only the start of your trials and tribulations. What follows is a dark, macabre voyage through a sinister old building, interspersed with moments of levity , as you try to find clues and items that will help you to survive and hopefully escape.
There are no character stats or dice rolls, as with Nightshift, but instead you will have fiendish puzzles to solve, code words to find, and items to trade or use. This is not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach, as there truly are some unpleasant things happening in this building – some based on actual experiments that humans have performed – highlighting the dark side of humanity. As with Nightshift, there is a strong emphasis on science and maths based puzzles – but nothing that should be insurmountable with a bit of thought (or a quick google search if you are really stuck).
As of writing, I think I am close to the end, but with Victoria’s books you are never sure, and anyway with an apparent choice of endings, it may not end happily ever after. If you want to survive, search every nook and cranny, write down everything, and map your way through. I got to a point I couldn’t get past as I was missing a certain item. When I checked back through my map, I found that I had indeed located it, but had forgotten to write it down! Amateur error.
The book is very similar in style and appearance to Nightshift, which is always pleasing as they sit nicely together on my bookshelf. The cover art is dark and Giger-esque, and the interior art is lovely – despite often not being particularly pleasant subject matter. At 400 sections, it’ll keep your busy for many an hour – although I am not sure I should be playing it late at night by myself (as I did last night!). Victoria seems to have the knack of taking ordinary locations and situations and taking them in a truly dark direction. If Nightshift gave you a phobia of hospitals, then don’t ready if you’ve got a job interview on the horizon.
In summary, a dark, challenging, unpleasant book set in a dark, challenging and unpleasant world. Needless to say, I loved it!
And I won’t have any need to regret leaving off that fifth star as I did with Nightshift
Highly recommended. Just don’t blame me if you have nightmares.
Author of Shadow Thief: Jailbreak and Straight to Hell