Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (American)
Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (British) #5
La Cosa, Una cosa tras otra (Spanish)
Butler, Jeffrey (Jeff)
Machlan, Mike (interior)
|User Summary:||A villain called the Red Ghost comes to the Fantastic Four with a bizarre request for help; he's contracted a seemingly incurable disease, and just infected them with it.|
As far as gamebooks go, One Thing After Another is a solid offering.
The quest for a cure to a deadly disease ravaging the Fantastic Four team sets our hero The Thing, known mostly for his brawn, on a race against time and dare I say it - other dimensions! This dimension-hopping tale plays out very differently than the Doctor Strange gamebook that came before it.
For starters, the artwork is somewhat retro in style and it complements the lighter tone of the storyline.
Most gamebook tales are very dark and gritty almost to the point of being dreary but not this one. This story is a refreshing change of pace and it captures the sense of wonder found in most Fantastic Four comics.
Now what sets this book apart from the rest of the series is its various paths to an optimal ending. It does have a few hard checks due to the Thing's low Reason and Intuition levels (even though he is an expert pilot - I always thought pilots were intelligent?) but the overall challenge is moderate. Karma is scarce in this game, but there is no one true path to success, so this gamebook doesn't really penalize (or judge) the player for being passive or aggressive in their decisions. It appears that some of the passages were shortened to the point where some character interaction was completely glossed over. It could have been distracting yet the writing style fits the Thing's curt sensibilities.
This gamebook is very flexible in finding a happy ending and there are numerous 'happy endings' in this book giving it high replay value. What is surprising are the various moral dilemmas that face our hero during his journey. There were times where I had to pause to really think what would be the best pragmatic course of action rather than making the right ethical choice. This book is arguably every bit as good as its highly praised predecessor Doctor Strange. A completely different flavour yet it's still a great meal for the hungry reader. Warren Spector made a 'fish out of water' gamebook worth reading. It makes me want to shout 'It's Clobberin' Time!'
Of all the Fantastic Four members who could have been the protagonist of one of these books, it's probably for the best that they picked the Thing. The path the author seems to want the player to take involves the Thing travelling to parallel universes, and I found it interesting to see what the different versions of the character were like in each location. I also liked controlling a character who is used to (and built for) smashing his way through problems with brute strength, but is put in situations where his intelligence and persuasive skills are just as important as the musculature that lets him take on the likes of the Hulk.
However, the book's main problem is exactly what I said above; it wants the player to do things a certain way. When I play these books, generally I want to be able to tackle problems in different ways when I start the story a second time. An ally flat-out tells the Thing early on that he needs to venture into other dimensions to find a cure, and when he tries something else to cure his friends shortly thereafter, makes the realization for himself that he should travel to other dimensions in search of a cure. It's possible to achieve success without doing so, but the paths deviating from the main course are short and feel undeveloped. I thought an endgame predicament where the Thing finally makes it home and goes through the possible cures he's discovered is also undeveloped and confusing if a particular route is chosen, almost as if to punish the player for making it that far and not doing what the author wanted. While I shudder to think what a Marvel Super Heroes book starring Mr. Fantastic or the Invisible Girl might have been like, only the most hardcore fans should make an effort to track this one down.
My plot summary: As Fantastic Four superhero The Thing, you must explore
several alternate dimensions in search of a cure for a mortal
disease which has affected you and your teammates.
Review: (based on the Spanish translation)
While not as good as the previous entry in the series, this is nonetheless an awesome gamebook by a designer who would later become famous for the computer game Deus Ex. There are lots of good things to say about it. For starters, the choice of Ben Grimm 'The Thing' as the protagonist couldn't have been more fortunate, as he is portrayed in a very vivid, humane and comical way (and this is helped by the fact that he must journey without his fellow Fantastic Four; by focusing on just one character the author was able to convey the The Thing in most of his depth and complexity). The book's story is excellent, featuring not only entertaining writing but many moral choices which really make the reader feel involved and attached with the character. The adventure is exciting and interesting, as the responsibility of saving the entire Fantastic Four team rests on the player's shoulders in a tough race against time.
This action-packed adventure allows the player to encounter several classic characters from the Fantastic Four comics, but its most substantial part involves traveling to several alternate universes similar to the Fantastic Four world, where the alter egos of the main characters chose to do different things with their lives. As a result, the Thing often faces tough choices, having to negotiate when he wouldn't like to or seeing his alter egos in other dimensions behave as villains. All this results in a very interesting read.
Gameplay is excellent. Choices are well thought-out but the adventure requires you to be lucky with die rolls as well. The challenge level is adequate, and the book is designed so the player must choose carefully in order not to lead the adventure to a premature failure. There are many ways in which the story can be resolved: you can find one of several cures, each requiring a different path be followed, but it's also possible to find ways to strip the Fantastic Four of their superpowers and lead them to an ordinary life. The diversity of outcomes and the many options given in each game-world greatly increase the replay value of the book. Furthermore, I liked the fact that the book often feels like a real role-playing session, in that the adventure adapts to your personal style: you can choose to be reckless and impulsive and jump into a fight at every opportunity, or to be cautious and negotiate with non-player characters, and still the story will feel realistic, will be fun, and a fair chance of success will be given. Mike Machlan's artwork is excellent in this book, and helps convey the correct atmosphere in each encounter.
Overall, this is a book which can be highly recommended if you like superhero fiction and want a complex and involving gaming experience.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Fireguard for the plot summary.|
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Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks
from Dragon #125, page 95
Marvel Superheroes Adventure Gamebook #5 Bookmark