Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-93483-X
Oh no, you have just missed the school bus! This is what happens when the comic club in your school is run by a boring nerd whose idea of fun is to present a lecture on expensive out-of-print comics that went on and on. You decide to take a shortcut through a part of town unfamiliar to you, and hey… that’s a comic shop! You step into Milo’s Comic Dungeon and end up spying a shiny rack full of those comics you saw in the boring presentation – all sold for only two dollars, ooh. Thing is, that rack is in a dark and forbidding part of the comic shop, and there is a sign that says no touching the merchandise. You also spy a door that leads down – likely to the basement – with a sign that says “Horror”. Ooh, you love scary stories too! So what will you do? Run your grubby paws over the very expensive, out of print comics, or sneak past the door into the horror section?
Little Comic Shop of Horrors has one of the best, if not the best, covers of all the gamebooks in the Give Yourself Goosebumps series, but Super Lizard on the cover is curiously enough not the prominent antagonist or anything like that here.
If you touch the comics, you get sucked into some kind of comic dimension where you and other unfortunate kids that came here and touched the comics can hop from one comic to another, sort of like Quantum Leap only you end up in the body of a superhero or a primary antagonist of the superhero. You can utter a phrase out loud to skip into another comic once things get sticky, but the more you use it, the higher are your chances of melting into an ink blot! Here, the primary characters are the parodies Super Duper, Ballistic Bug, the Y’s Guys (you can’t recall what Jean Greene’s powers are, but you suspect it’s coming back from the dead, heh), and the villains Tex Loudsnore (who hates Super Duper) and Dr Doof.
If you go down to the basement, you will be stuck in a maze of horrors with other kids, and depending on your options, these kids may eat you or become your rather useless allies as you try to do a The Maze Runner here. The evil villain Milo the Mutant – who also happens to be the owner of the comic store – won’t let you, of course, and somehow Frankenstein’s monster also shows up after a wrong turn. This one is less random than the other arc, but it is also arguably the less interesting – if more scary and violent – arc as it’s just you and some wretches running around and making random choices. Sure, the choices in the other arc can be LOL random too, but the randomness makes more sense and is even fun in the context of that particular arc.
Nonetheless, both arcs are very entertaining. Sure, one arc has most of the humor and wacky fun stuff, while the other arc has far more horror and even gore, but this lack of balance means that you end up getting two different but complete, fun, and memorable stories to star in. The pacing never falters, and the gentle satirical elements only add to the overall zany comedy permeating the whole campaign. There are some rather unfair twists and turns, as certain routes offer options that all lead to bad endings, and some options can be counter-intuitive in that being careful or compassionate actually leads to dire consequences. Still, this makes the happy endings feel more satisfying and even earned.
Frankly, Little Comic Shop of Horrors is fun, fun, fun from first to last page. If you have time for only some Give Yourself Goosebumps gamebooks, make this one of them!