Ladybird Books, £0.75, ISBN 0-7214-0897-4
Remember the weird beefy guy who runs around wearing grass skirts and shouting that he has the power of Greyskull? His main enemy is an equally beefy blue-skinned guy whose head is inexplicably a skull. Remember Eternia? A place where nobody has actual names, just nicknames that stereotype that person for life such as Ram-Man, Mer-Man, and Beast Man? Ah yes, back in those days, everyone seemed to adore the Masters of the Universe toys as well as the cheesy cartoon.
Back in 1985, everyone was also crazy about gamebooks. Therefore, it was to be expected that we ended up with a Masters of the Universe gamebook too. He-Man and the Memory Stone is the only gamebook based on this popular toy and cartoon series that I am aware of. It is better off viewed as a novelty than a serious gamebook at any rate.
There are some gamebook elements here. You play He-Man, naturally, and you have 12 Hit Points. In this campaign, you need a die. Whenever you have a combat encounter, you will roll the die and the number you roll will determine whether you or the enemy get hit. Don’t worry, He-Man can’t die, so you will be rescued by your allies when your Hit Points fall to zero. Still, that will mean you have to start all over again.
In this one, Skeletor’s minions had unearthed a powerful stone in the catacombs under Snake Mountain. Skeletor is gleeful because this stone can be used to erase someone’s memory. Naturally, it’s He-Man’s memory he is targeting for total erasure. Alas, with Skeletor being Skeletor, it isn’t He-Man who gets zapped but Man-at-Arms. Now He-Man must mount a desperate quest to travel to and infiltrate Snake Mountain in order to locate and destroy the Memory Stone.
He-Man and the Memory Stone is more Choose Your Own Adventure than Fighting Fantasy, which means this one will appeal more to younger kids than most gamebooks. Sure, it is nice to see He-Man in action, to play as He-Man, but this campaign is pretty short, as short as a single episode of the cartoon. That’s not a bad thing, really, but depending on the age of the reader, the very simplistic prose is either going to be fun or really boring. Still, there are some cheesy camp to be enjoyed here, such as a hilarious encounter with Beast Man and a laughably pointless cameo appearance by Evil-Lyn.
At the end of the day, I’m afraid I’m just too old to appreciate this gamebook the way it was meant to. Still, it makes an amusing novelty gamebook worth picking up in a used bookstore and spending a while basking in nostalgia of the utterly cheesy 1980s version of the cartoon series.