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Item - The Badlands of Hark

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Series: Hark — no. 1
Translated Into: Busca el tesoro de Hark (Spanish)
Author: Stine, R. L.
Illustrators: Pound (cover)
Roper, Robert (Bob) (interior)
Date: 1985
ISBN: 0590337726 / 9780590337724
Length: 250 sections
Number of Endings: 79
User Summary: You are on a search for treasure on the incredibly dangerous planet of Hark.
Demian's Thoughts:

This is a very, very difficult book to finish successfully. This doesn't mean it's an intellectual challenge, just that it has so many arbitrary deaths and dead ends that it takes forever to find the right way through. Still, if you have patience (and make a map), it is possible to get through successfully. The book has a few continuity problems (like the ability to get infinitely many points if you "cheat" and follow certain plot threads through again and again) and the writing is uneven, but I can't help liking it; it's quite different from most gamebooks, even if all the differences aren't favorable.

My High Score - 1625 (no points counted more than once)

More reviews by Demian

Guillermo's Thoughts:

(Review based on the Spanish translation.)

R. L. Stine is best known to readers of this site for series such as Twistaplot, Wizards, Warriors & You, and Give Yourself Goosebumps. The Hark series is less well-known, even though its two volumes are perhaps the best gamebooks authored by the native of Ohio. This book and its sequel each have 250 short sections, meaning they are more reminiscent of British gamebooks such as Fighting Fantasy than they are of Choose Your Own Adventure books. In spite of this, the books have no rules other than a scoring system similar to that seen in classic text adventure games.

The book consists of exploring a huge planet named Hark in search of a cache of treasure which is hidden somewhere. There is only one successful ending, and it is so difficult to find that it may take you several days to complete the adventure. The game is designed to be treacherous in a Terry Gilliam-esque sort of way; with 78 failure endings plus a complex maze hidden somewhere in the book, this is definitely not an endeavor for the easily frustrated (notwithstanding the fact that the author will poke fun at you every time you fail). There is little reward to using logic as the outcomes of choices are entirely capricious. This is something I usually dislike, but this book is written in such a light-hearted and tongue-in-cheek way that it never loses its charm. Another good feature is that the game world and the creatures that populate it are very creatively designed, and the illustrations by Bob Roper contribute a lot to building a darkly humorous atmosphere. Overall, this is an excellent science-fiction gamebook that should satisfy those looking for something different.

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rellwood's Thoughts:

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. It has a quirky Hitchhiker's-Guide-to-the-Galaxy-esque tone: always unexpected, totally (that is, intentionally) lacking in any realism whatsoever, and loaded with more crazy ways of getting killed than I can count on all my fingers and toes. This book is really like a large maze where you must make arbitrary choices to get to the end. You are given no hints as to what choices to make. I find myself reading with my fingers stuck in the pages at various sections that I had made choices, so that I can go back if my current route turns out to be a dead end. It's an amusing diversion to pass an idle hour.

More reviews by rellwood

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