Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-40034-7
Once again, you encounter deadly monsters and villains while you are on vacation. How come you never have such fun while, say, attending school or walking the dog in a park? Oh well, since this is how things work in a Give Yourself Goosebumps gamebook, this is how things will be.
In Night of a Thousand Claws, you, your younger brothers, and your parents head off to Cat Cay Island for the summer. It’s an island off Nantucket, and as you can probably guess, the whole place is crawling with cars. Creepy cats with creepier stares glowering at you as far as the eye can see, while the cab driver that brings you all here warns you to stay indoors after dark. Of course, your idiot brother never listens, so off he runs into the night. Letting him die is sadly never an option, so it’s up to you and your other brother to look for him. Will you survive the trip?
Well, you are given two options at first, to seek out your brother at a lighthouse or at the cottage of Katrina Madd, the sinister woman who owns the place your family is renting for the summer. One option leads to a quick, short detour before quickly booting you off the campaign with a not-at-all paranormal bad ending, while the other option leads to what is clearly the “real” meat of the campaign as decided by RL Stine. Even then, this option quickly branches off to several other routes that lead to abrupt bad endings regardless of which options you take, and the whole thing can be perplexing until you discover that there is only one clearly optimal happy ending available here. The rest are just terrible endings which see you dying at the hands of evil mutant cats or half-baked somewhat happy endings that still leave you feeling like you have swallowed some cat poo.
While this may feel like a “real” campaign, the whole thing feels bewilderingly forgettable and average. Instead of being scary, the cats come off as rejects from a Scooby-Doo episode. Even when they are supposed to be killing you, they just appear… lame. Oh, and there is one ending which sees you being buried to death under a pile of cats, should you need any extra incentive to not take these cats seriously as a threat. Even the cat puns are cringe-inducing rather than funny. The lack of a memorable villain also doesn’t help. Katrina Madd doesn’t necessarily have to be a villain, depending on your choices, but when she is trying to be one, she just comes off like a loud, histrionic sad lady too fond of catgirl costumes.
Maybe if Night of a Thousand Claws had been a horror campaign set in a furry convention, things would look up. As it is, this one could have been interesting and fun, especially since it isn’t some trope-heavy campaign. Instead, it just feels flat and lifeless.