Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-39997-7
It’s vacation time again, so there’s no better time for your character to get that Give Yourself Goosebumps grime! This time around, you’re the younger sibling, at odds with the menace that is your big brother Pete. Your parents are going to bring you all camping at Snakebite Canyon, a name that surely promises nothing but love and happiness. They stop at the Visitors Center shop to stock up on supplies for the week ahead, and, bored, you decide to take a look around. The of-course creepy owner tempts you with two tantalizing items. One, a pair of magical, if dried-up, eyes of a rattlesnake that, when you view through them, will allow you to transform into any animal. Two, a map pointing you to a lost gold mine – it’s “lost” because people who go there never come back, heh. You will buy one of these items, hence beginning your adventure.
If you buy the magical eyes, you get to have fun. If you manage to avoid some initial hiccups that will end your adventure prematurely, you soon discover a drawback to your new sojourns in Animorph valley: the owner of those eyes, a huge rattlesnake with magical powers, is still around and it wants its eyes back. In fact, it’s just right at your tail, so have fun running away! This arc is not for people who find snakes to be terrifying; if you are one of them, you may end up hearing the hiss of the rattlesnake in the back of your head and wince when your characters encounter one of the few endings which sees you being devoured by that huge snake.
Despite that, this is a straightforward route, with some expected randomness, but most of the time, you will meet a bad end because you deliberately choose to be stupid. The whole thing is alright – it’s a decent diversion, although people with a fear of snakes will likely get the willies playing this one.
The other route involving the treasure map appears less random, but it also suffers from poor structure. Many options will just take you to a common entry which branches off to multiple possible failures. The one best ending involves having to seek out a special item to get pass the initial barrier of the mine, but many options will take you here, there are only two real ways to get that item. This may seem very Fighting Fantasy-kind of exciting, but the whole thing is too short to be of note, and the constant looping suggests that this secondary route was created as filler to pad up the campaign. Oh, and Pete tags along for this one, so expect him to be either being super annoying or super horrible, the latter due to him deliberately doing stupid things to trigger bad endings with you having no way to stop him.
Alone in Snakebite Valley is a misnomer of a title: you will be in the company of that big giant rattlesnake, of course, along with mountain lions, bears, park rangers, ghosts, creepy eyeball monsters, giant spiders (oh yes, if you can’t stand those things, have fun with the treasure map route)… the whole thing is a pretty intriguing walk among nature, so to speak, with plenty of missed opportunities, especially in the second route. That one really bogs the whole thing down considerably.