Big Fish, £9.99, ISBN 1-903174-26-0
Bug World is another title that really stretches the definition of “gamebook”. Seeing that Andy Dixon is once again involved, there is clearly a pattern here. Still, it’s hard to begrudge the people at Big Fish for playing fast and loose with the concept of gamebooks, as this “hunt the hidden objects” puzzle adventure is pretty amazing to behold.
Well, there’s that fantastical theme park Bug World. It’s like Jurassic Park, only (supposedly) safer, because here, owner and creator Doctor Peter Proboscis keeps genetically modified giant insects, instead of dinosaurs, on display. Unfortunately, agents of the rival insect park WaspWars recently sabotaged Bug World. Now, the giant insects roam free, attacking visitors, and it is up to you to aid Dr Proboscis and his team in cleaning up the mess.
There are six domes to visit, each with its own geographical theme, which means that there are six spreads to examine and scrutinize for hidden objects. Actually, you will have to look for more than just hidden objects. First, you are given a sheet containing scientific information on the insects present in the dome (nice for those wanting to learn something) as well as the number of these insects that are on the loose in the tableau. You have to search for them, naturally. Then it’s time to search for items that are crucial to rescue the trapped visitors and advance to the next dome. Also, you will have to locate the growth pod, planted by agents of WaspWars, which made the insects grow to huge proportions and go wild. There are also the usual “here are some stuff to look for” bonus activities.
The best thing about Bug World is the gorgeous illustrations by Nick Harris. Seriously, the artwork is amazing, and each spread – apart from the boring one for the African Grasslands Dome – is a beauty to behold. Each spread is also very busy, which makes finding the hidden objects or creatures very, very challenging at many instances. The use of a magnifying glass is recommended as some of the hidden things are very small. Because there are so many things to do here, it’s a good thing that the artwork is gorgeous, as you won’t get tired of squinting at each spread so soon.
The only quibble here is that some of the things hidden away in the spread, especially the insects, do not resemble what is portrayed in the instruction panel. This may pose some difficulty for younger kids, especially since some of the things to find here are described in what you may call “big” words, such as billabong. Still, there’s no harm getting those kids to learn new words, is there?
Bug World qualifies as a gamebook only if you have a very broad interpretation of that word, but there’s no denying that this is a very pretty and very entertaining puzzle adventure that may give even grown-ups a good challenge.