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Item - Crypt Quest/Space Battles

Series: Play-Your-Way Midnight Arcade — no. 1
Author: Soria, Gabe
Illustrator: Hale, Kendall
Date: February 13, 2018
ISBN: 152478429X / 9781524784294
Length: 256 pages
User Summary: Trapped in a 80’s era haunted video arcade, Midnight Arcade is a play-your-way adventure tale in which the reader determines the course of action, ultimately controlling whether they live or die!
Fireguard's Thoughts: I admit it: I picked this book up because I'm a sucker for retro video games, and I actually kind of enjoy seeing how the idea of playing a video game can be adapted into other media. Back in the day the Nintendo Adventure Books actually played a big part in getting me to take an interest in reading.

A premise about retro games doesn't earn the book any points if it doesn't deliver on its own merits, though. Things kick off with you taking a dare to sneak into the abandoned mall at night, and once inside you hear strange noises and upon investigating find out that the old video arcade still appears to be operating. A creepy attendant gives you a token and a choice of two games to play, and as soon as you make your choice you aren't just playing the game, you're living it.

The book tries to simulate some of the feel of playing an old arcade game by having you respond to danger by picking from options on a control panel like on those old cabinets: moving in one of four directions or with two other buttons that do different things based on context. The way this is implemented reminds me of only one old arcade game, though: Dragon's Lair. That was basically an interactive cartoon where you didn't control the character so much as react to the pre-animated sequences, by saying which direction to move or when to attack when confronted by danger. There was only one right choice, if you made the wrong one you automatically died.

This book is exactly like that, where despite having six options at every choice, only one is correct. If you pick the wrong one nothing happens and you get sent back to choose again, or you pick the wrong one and die then get sent back to choose again. It borders on not being interactive at all. Even a seeming chance to take two paths near the end of Space Battles just ends up putting you in a hopeless situation with no correct choices at all if you pick one instead of the other.

I know we complain about some books like the Fighting Fantasy series only having one "right" path to get to the best ending, but at least the way those are made they have the potential for interesting encounters in the "wrong" paths, and less-optimal paths are something that exist. If you don't stick to the exact right path in this book, it smacks you on the nose with a newspaper and tells you to shape up and try again to do what it wants you to do.

The book does seem to try to have some fun with some aspects of old games. Things like arbitrary stories that had nothing to do with anything once you hit the start button, and advisors who aren't actually helpful and have no sane reason to be hiding out in a monster-infested nightmare world. But no matter how amusing that was occasionally, playing this was one of the most tedious things I've done in a long time. You can skip it without any regrets.

4/10

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Users Who Own This Item: Eamonn McCusker, Fireguard, mir1812, waktool

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