YOU become a bounty hunter which gives you some plausibility for being on Earth and snooping around asking questions. But this time you’re not snagging a bail-jumper for a paycheck — the Galactic President has been kidnapped and aliens are burrowing into his brain to get the secrets inside. Totally Ghost In The Shell, eh?
He’s in one of four cities, and you don’t know where. It’s a race against the clock to make his rescue before they get into his brain and it all counts for nothing.
I admit that I don’t quite understand the secrets they’re trying to get at. It’s supposed to be defense codes, so I imagine there’s a war going on. But you’re also a tourist on Gromulan-occupied Earth, so I’m not entirely clear on the nature of the war where they allow tourists.
Anyway, here’s your shuttle ticket to Madrid and an unlimited expense account. You have 48 gravity hours left!
Review and Opinion
Like a lot of FF’s sci-fi themed books, this one was lackluster. It’s halfway through the series (#27) and they had plenty of experience in making good books… but the sci-fi ones just never worked well.
I did win the book in one evening, but only by rolling my eyes and skipping the “roll two dice, if they match your adventure ends here” moments. There are way too many of those! Combined with the sheer number of Test Your Luck moments (three on one page), many of which are insta-death if you’re unlucky, the thing just felt lazy and annoying. Even with a Luck of 12 it would take incredibly fortunate rolls to not fall victim to the many “roll a double and die” situations. It’s a lazy mechanic, and an annoying one, so cut it out! (he says, 29 years after the book was published)
The book also included a new Time mechanic. You have 48 gravity hours left before El Presidente gets hacked anyway. But the usage of this mechanic is entirely arbitrary: it costs 4 time units to ride the Greyhound (sorry, Silverhound!) to Roma, but costs 4 time units to eat dinner and 2 units to read a paragraph of text. Ultimately the time doesn’t really matter though, since you’ll either die randomly or else finish with half of it to spare.
To some degree Star Strider makes up for this poor construction with backstory and atmosphere. The atmosphere feels like “gutter punks in the space age” as we slink into abandoned subways and hang with sewer urchins and ride the bus, and the feeling of being hunted (while in fact being the hunter) was enjoyable here as it is in other FFs. But it was not an epic atmosphere like a few I’ve played lately such as Slaves of the Abyss or Revenge of the Vampire; it’s not even as varied as Rebel Planet was.
But, to end on a positive note, the book did have multiple paths. The clues are in multiple locations and have multiple paths to them. Both Madrid and Roma have multiple places to get clues and multiple ways to get to those places. And you could even get to the dungeon and find El Presidente Galactico without any of those clues, if you’re really super fortunate.
Update: July 2022
I pulled this one off the shelf, thinking I hadn’t played it before. I had three brief playthroughs and still didn’t recognize that I had played it back in 2016 when I first wrote this page. I called it lackluster back then, and it certainly didn’t leave much of an impression if I don’t remember it while I’m playing it. The new playthroughs were fairly irritating because I rolled 8 skill every time and died in my first fight every time. I finally gave up and gave myself 12/24/12/12 – which still didn’t help since there are so many 50/50 deaths that even God cheating stands little chance of making it through.
So I largely stand by my former review. The writing is good on atmosphere, with bus stations that are as grungy in the space future as they are today and street gang rowdies who are okay if you don’t antagonize them. But the game play is poor: no-info 50/50 insta-deaths and “roll 2 dice; if they match u ded lol” which I find irritating and lazy.
Written by Robert Barr
Illustrated by Gary Mayes
Book 27 in the series
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