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The Amazing Spider-Man: City in Darkness

Series: Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (American) #1
Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (British) #1
Translated Into: Spiderman, el hombre araña, La ciudad a oscuras (Spanish)
Spiderman, La Ville sans lumière (French)
Tenebre sulla città (Italian)
Author: Grubb, Jeff
Illustrators: Butler, Jeffrey (Jeff) (cover)
Parkinson, Keith (cover)
Kupperberg, Alan (interior)
Williams, Keith (interior)
Release Date: 1986
Length:209 sections
User Summary: You are Spider-Man, and you must find and stop a mysterious villain who has taken control of all energy in the city of New York.
darkatx's Thoughts: Having recently acquired the entire collection, I made it a point to read them all in order. Spider-Man: City in Darkness is better than it first appears and could be further appreciated after a second go. For starters, the cover art is stellar. As for the interior art, it is very simple, clear and well laid out, as it should be. The interior art inking is actually better executed in this book than most of the other entries with a notable exception of The Thing and Wolverine books (with the Wolverine book's major character mix-up notwithstanding).

The story, while not the strongest in the series, is still fairly tight, almost to the point of being blandly linear but not just quite. The branching mechanic is balanced between multiple choices and dice rolls with an overall difficulty that is somewhat challenging. While there are a number of nominal endings in this book there is only one true ending with a heart-felt message. This is one of the highlights of this gamebook and makes it memorable for me after all these years. The other, as mentioned in another review, is its unique narrative structure not seen in any other book in the Marvel Adventure series. This is the book's saving grace and sets it apart from the others in the series as something unique.

The are some sore points in this book. The initial stat card has a misprint in it that was corrected in the second Spider-Man gamebook that was to follow by Peter David. Yes, Spider-man's statistics are the same for both books. They even share the same introductions! Also, some of the characterizations of Spider-Man and Peter Parker seemed a touch off. Peter Parker is a gifted student, yet his general knowledge of electrical power grid systems was surprisingly lacking. The general pacing of this adventure being a mystery book more than an action comic book might be a bit of a put off for the average comic book fan. Plus, the humour is corny but that's a given with any Spidey book. There is a much darker tone in this book than found in most Spidey stories I recall reading in the mid-80's at that time.

All in all, this little book doesn't have everything going for it but it does have heart. A decent enough effort to get one's feet wet before tackling the stronger entries in this series.

More reviews by darkatx

Guillermo's Thoughts: (review based on the Spanish translation)

This is, for the most part, a rather unremarkable gamebook. The majority of it is extremely linear, and when finally the chance is given to explore what seem like many interesting optional paths, most of them are either too short or frankly pointless, and they all tend to reconverge on another ultra-linear final section. The game aspect is nothing to write home about, either, as many people will probably finish this in just one try, and it shouldn't take more than two or three attempts for the vast majority.

However, the writing deserves to be written about separately, as there are both good and bad things to say about it. I'll begin with the criticism. Since Spider-Man is supposed to be something of a cynical character, the author tries very hard to insert a pun or a joke from the main character at practically every opportunity. This is done so often that at times it feels intrusive rather than helpful for the story, and most of the jokes are really lame to boot (though one made me crack a smile, so not all is lost). I also feel the need to complain about characterization. I'm not a comics expert by any means, but I've always pictured Spider-Man as a hero portraying many of the problems teenagers have adjusting to society. This flavour, which was strongly felt in what little I have read and watched of this character, is almost completely lost here, so he is mostly portrayed in a very superficial way as yet another stereotypical crime-fighter.

Despite these criticisms, the book does have one saving grace: narrative structure. Rather than telling the entire story as a linear sequence of events, seen entirely from the point of view of the player character (as British gamebooks, for example, usually do), there are story sections interjected which allow the reader to follow the point of view of the main villain. This is indeed a very interesting exercise in gamebook narrative, and it's unfortunate it has been so underused in interactive fiction in general, as the switching of perspective certainly does a lot to build both suspense and an effective atmosphere, the way this author handles it. This quality alone might make it worth picking up, especially for people who are writing their own gamebooks and want to know more about the different ways to tell a story that have been used in our hobby. I also found the ending thought-provoking, making this book worth a read.

More reviews by Guillermo

Kveto's Thoughts: This is a series by TSR based on the Marvel Super Heroes role playing game.

It reads much like the AD&D Adventure Gamebooks; basically, you play a hero and must survive by taking various checks against Fighting, Agility, Intuition, etc. As you play an established superhero, you don't get any say in your attributes.

The series starts off well with a good adventure staring Spider-man. It involves one of Spider-man's enemies trying to kill him in revenge. It's a fairly good mystery and feels like there are more choices and avenues to explore. It does a good job of capturing the "lone wolf" aspect of Spider-man as you spend a lot of time on rooftops talking to yourself.

I couldn't figure out the mystery (although most with some knowledge of comics should get it easily) for some reason although it felt obvious afterward. It also involves an optimal ending that helps put the villain in perspective.

There is a very comic-book-y interlude in which you see things from the villain's perspective. It includes several favourite spiderman villans like Electro and is true to the Marvel universe.

A good book overall.

More reviews by Kveto

Special Thanks:Thanks to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes (US), B0N0V0X, bigcobra, bookwormjeff, brujeria!, crazydave, Crazyscotsman, darkatx (2 copies), dArtagnan, dave2002a, domj29, edwebb, exaquint, firefoxpdm, Fireguard, Gamebook, Gartax, Gibraltar, hoops4ever, jeff3333, katzcollection (American edition), killagarilla, kinderstef, knginatl (US), le maudit, Malthus Dire, mlvoss, nerelax, plowboy, redpiper05, Sir Olli, sireeyore, Treguard, Uraniborg (UK), Yalius, Zolika
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