There's a gory streak running through Sol Invictus, a grim blood-soaked grin that shines through the digital pages of this gamebook sequel.
It's not quite as snappy as its predecessor, which dropped you into a deep-space nightmare from the first page and never really let up, but there's still a dark crackle to proceedings.
There's wider scope too. Your adventure here will span the solar system, and you're joined by a ragtag band of fanatics and soldiers as you carve your way through terrifying alien invaders and the madness that followed the collapse of human civilisation.
You play a human fanatic from the Black Lance legion. Essentially you're a slightly bonkers zealot who heads into the worst places in the universe in order to further the cause of humanity against alien invaders.
The mechanics of the game are pretty similar to Heavy Metal Thunder. You read through the text, and from time to time you have to test your skills or battle a foe. This is all done with tapped dice rolls.
Succeed at a check and you gain a hero point. These can be used to re-roll failed checks, or skip the test altogether and buy a pass. On top of that you earn extra money from the kills you make during your missions.
You also get to make decisions that change the way the story unfolds. These can be as simple as picking which corridor to take, or as complex as deciding whether to murder a civilian to further your goals.
The story bounces along at a fair old pace, and there are checkpoints scattered through so if you make a wrong choice you can rewind things and give it another go.
The sci-fi setting might not be to everyone's taste, and there are a few sections that don't read quite as smoothly as you might like, but they're the exception rather than the rule.
Some of the artwork is particularly good, all vivid colours and gloomy chunks of black and brown. It adds to the unsettling atmosphere that permeates every corner of the game. This is a future cast in increasingly severe shades of grey.
And it's an entertaining place to visit. The narrative might riff on several more established universes, but there's enough intrigue and splashes of violence to keep you entertained all the same.
Sol Invictus is a fine example of a gamebook sequel done well. It builds on the foundations set down by its predecessor, both mechanically and in terms of scope. If you enjoyed the first book, then you're going to lap this one up too.
If you're a newcomer to the series, there's enough gap-filling that you won't miss anything if you haven't played Heavy Metal Thunder.
This is a grim and glorious sci-if adventure that's full of twists, turns, and exciting sequences. It might not advance the gamebook genre particularly, but it's brilliantly well put together, and there's enough gore and splatter that you'll be thrilled right to the end.