Bantam Skylark, $2.50, ISBN 0-553-28009-0
The cover art of Captive! is the best thing about it. It’s so mysterious and creepy. The plot sounds promising too. You play a friend of Count Renzo, a nobleman in 13th century Italy who is recently held prisoner in a remote monastery for backing the wrong people. Politics can be so dangerous, you know. Can you rescue your friend without ending up a prisoner yourself, or worse?
Unfortunately, the campaign itself is a bit of a miss, as things take a turn for the very familiar kind of average Choose Your Adventure gamebook. The narrative is choppy and dry, you often hit “The End” by random even when you think you are making the more sensible choice, and the various story paths all feel short and disjointed.
Even when your character dies, the whole thing is described with all the urgency of an IKEA instruction manual. Where is the enthusiasm here for anything? Still, I have to hand it to the authors: there is one death scene where your character’s last few minutes before the curtain descends are described in a detailed manner that is a far cry from the coy manner found in many other gamebooks in this series.
The setting of the campaign is a colorful part of European history, but here, Captive! comes off as fun as watching paint dry. The whole thing is a wasted opportunity from start to finish.