Goosebumps: Escape from HorrorLand
I have to begin this review by admitting that I have read one (well maybe several) of the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. They've been hard to avoid when a good percentage of my younger acquaintances are avid readers of this series and have had no qualms about sharing their passion with others. In Australia, at least, the Goosebumps books have captured the imagination of the young and consequently they sell like hot cakes. For this reason I was concerned that Escape from HorrorLand might not live up to expectations.
I needn't have worried. It's an entertaining game with a varied tempo combining fast paced action and leisurely exploration and puzzle solving. It adeptly captures the spine tingling essence of the printed word as it takes the player along on a suitably scary adventure in HorrorLand, complete with darkened sewers, haunted graveyard, flesh eating plants, vampires, and a host of other nightmarish creatures.
Escape from HorrorLand continues the theme of the Goosebumps book, A Day in HorrorLand. In this episode Lizzy, Luke and Clay are back, and along with Lizzy's parents, they are once again living their nightmares. The player, too, is taken along for the ride as she or he is drawn into this adventure, not as a spectator, but as a participant.
The presentation is a combination of video sequences and scrolling screens. The video sequences are not at all intrusive, they work very well to heighten the urgency of the game as the characters turn towards the screen and beckon the player to join in, or beg for help in finding a way out of the latest scrape. It is the player who takes the lead and makes all the decisions such as what to do, or where to go next.
Along with the various puzzles which involve manipulating levers and buttons, finding keys and other items, as well as playing word games, there is also plenty of fast-paced action to keep young players entertained. Poke too far into a rubbish bin and kids are likely to find themselves on a non-stop slide along narrow passageways to who knows where? And the gameplay in the sewers provides for arcade-type action where quick movement is essential to evade monsters and collect as many gold tokens as possible.
The interface is entirely mouse controlled with a single hand icon used for movement and for picking up and using objects. Just press Esc to leave the gameplay screen and enter an area with a selection of icons for quitting completely, saving and restoring or for accessing the score sheet.
To earn points in this game the player must search everywhere and collect tokens that are strewn around. Some are not so easy to reach and it's a puzzle in itself getting hold of them, whilst others are hidden in drawers or cupboards, not forgetting the hoard in the crazy sewers. There are 777 tokens in all so collecting as many as possible adds to the fun of the game. There are also 10 'trading cards' hidden about the place each of which contains a clue to solving one of the puzzles. Accessing the clue, however, means forfeiting a token, as does accessing the 'Riddle wall' which also provides hints. And, if you are not quick enough or smart enough you can get beaten up a bit by monsters ... another way to lose scoring tokens.
This is a wonderful game for fans of Goosebumps or for young players who like to be scared out of their wits. There is a lot to explore with a good assortment of entertaining puzzles to solve and kids might well want to play it again and again to improve their score and ensure a few more sleepless nights. Both the graphics and the acting are delightful and guaranteed to grab young players and pull them straight into this hair-raising adventure. The sound effects, too, are exceptional, contributing greatly to the ominous atmosphere though I was disappointed that the dialogue is not subtitled.
Just a final thought. The designers seem to have acknowledged that not all children are 'whiz kids' with the mouse as the arcade action in the sewers doesn't even have to be attempted to complete the game. However, as the scoring system counts the total tokens collected both in the arcade sequences as well as those found by diligent searching and solving puzzles, it necessarily dooms young non-arcade game players to an abysmal score. It would have been nicer to have had two separate totals so that these children might still be rewarded for their efforts.
Copyright © Rosemary Young 1997.
All rights reserved.
Pentium 75 with SVGA local bus video, 256-color display, Windows 95, 4X CD-ROM drive, 8 MB of RAM, 2 MB hard disk space, 8-bit Sound Blaster compatible soundcard, Microsoft or compatible mouse.