"Crypt Quest/Space Battles: A Play-Your-Way Book (Midnight Arcade)" Book Review
Written by John Colianni
Published by Penguin Workshop
Written by Gabe Soria
2018, 256 pages, Fiction
Released on February 13, 2018
I was fortunate to grow up in the era of Goosebumps books. While I started consuming horror before my introduction to R.L. Stine’s classics, his books propelled my reading habits to include King and Koontz well into my teens. Aside from the traditional horror narratives, I fondly remember the Give Yourself Goosebumps series that let the reader make decisions inside the story that often had dire consequences. I learned on that my decision-making skills were complete shit, but that didn’t prevent me from going back and discovering the ending that didn’t have me meeting my demise. Gabe Soria’s Crypt Quest/Space Battles, part of the Midnight Arcade series, is a fresh new spin on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” genre with a fresh mechanic.
You and your friends have been daring each other for ages which one of you will have the guts to hop the fence and explore the abandoned mall on the edge of town. The only one with a spine, you hop the fence, pry loose some boards and enter the vacant shopping center. Exploring the empty corridors, you find a ‘90s style arcade that eerily still has lights and sounds coming from it. Filled with games you’ve never heard of, you explore deeper and eventually lose your way. Furthermore, you realize that you’re not alone. Standing in front of two arcade cabinets is a ghostly figure who hands you a unique token and urges you to play your choice of Crypt Quest or Space Battles. This is where your adventure begins.
Two interactive stories in one book, the Midnight Arcade is the perfect amount of nostalgia that kept me flipping back and forth through the pages. I started with Crypt Quest, which throws the player into a medieval setting where exploring graveyards and fighting skeletons is just part of life now. Space Battles has the reader dogfighting in a space ship, combatting aliens. Choosing the directions that you want to maneuver as well as giving the options to shoot lasers, jump or use melee attacks adds the illusion of operating a joystick and various gamepad buttons. This mechanic is what makes Midnight Arcade different than what I remember growing up reading. Decisions aren’t without consequences, however, since death awaits with every page turn.
It’s not a secret that these quests are written to be consumed by a younger reader, but as a man in my early 30s, it’s too much fun to care who the intended audience is. I could even imagine that this is fun to read to a younger audience, putting them in control of what happens. Having two very different scenarios in one book adds to the re-readability. While I’m more inclined to enjoy more adventures with skeletons and monsters, space is the perfect companion. Midnight Arcade brought me back to a time where decision making wasn’t all the scary adult stuff I do nowadays. It is defeating space aliens and crypt monsters that is most consequential. With another book arriving later this year, which will include two more games to “play”, make sure you get your adventuring fill that Gabe Soria has so perfectly delivered. Thanks for the memories.