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Item - Return to the Cave of Time

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Series: U-Ventures — no. 1
Platforms: Apple iOS
Google Play
Adapted From: Return to the Cave of Time (Gamebook)
Date: 2010
ISBN: 1442452838 / 9781442452831
Guillermo's Thoughts:

In spite of the rather unenthusiastic reviews this book has received on, I believe it is a true classic. It has a much darker and grimmer tone than its predecessor (The Cave of Time) and contains quite a few imaginative ideas that make it sort of a companion volume to that other classic which is titled Hyperspace. Based on my previous experience with the book, I was really excited when an extended version was released in 2010. Unfortunately, the new version does not improve much on the original, and many of the additions only serve to make it worse.

The first thing you notice while perusing the book is that the excellent artwork from the original has been replaced with an appalling set of interior illustrations by a different artist. After you finish crying from the initial frustration, you can stop to notice that in this new version there is no illustration for the famous Sintra ending; this suggests that the ending was indeed meant by Edward Packard to be ambiguous. References to the original version aside, the new artwork is so bad it's almost insulting to the reader. Unfortunately, things mostly continue to go downhill from here.

The original text and choices are kept mostly intact, with only a few minor revisions and updates here and there. The "extensions" consist of additional choices and endings. However, there are no new time periods to explore or original adventures to have: the extensions only serve to make some of the original encounters more detailed. Packard was one of the few CYOA authors who liked introducing game mechanics into their books, and this version of Return does indeed introduce one which was not present in the original; you are given a secret word which you can use in order to get out of certain tight spots at different points in the story. I found this gimmick very unimaginative, especially if you compare it to those the author introduced into his classic works (who can forget the reader having to blank their mind or find a secret ending in Inside UFO 54-40, for example?). Overall, I don't believe this game element adds much to the adventure.

Poor illustrations and mediocre mechanics could be forgiven if the new text constituted an improvement over the old one, but more often than not, this is not the case. The vast majority of the new choices introduced lead to abrupt, badly-written endings which taken together could not have taken more than a single evening to write. The new material for the most part does not break any new ground compared to the original; it's shocking that the extra 45 pages mostly read like filler. I understand the author was nearly 80 years old when he wrote the expanded version, but I'm still surprised that a man of his creative stature would put his name on something that is for the most part a rush job. Still, there is one part of the book that almost saves the day: this part was a death ending in the original, but it has been extended with a series of paths that give the reader a chance of survival (though death is still highly likely). This part requires a lot of strategy and is quite well done, but is not enough for me to shake off the feeling of having wasted my time with the rest of the book.

Overall, the new version is a very mixed bag, and I cannot really praise it. I suppose it would be more tolerable if it had retained Don Hedin's artwork from the Bantam original, but as it is it's definitely unsatisfying. Just like the "special editions" of the original Star Wars film trilogy, it feels redundant but not a lot worse than its predecessor. The magic of the original is mostly still there for new readers to experience, but people who have read the original will not feel they got their money's worth when they purchase the new version. Still, some of the new material is good, so I guess you could give it a try. Just don't expect too much from the ride.

More reviews by Guillermo

Users Who Own This Item: Erikwinslow (U-ventures Signed copy), knginatl (book fair, reissue, U-Ventures PB)

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