Chooseco, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-933390-10-9
Hello, you. You are a young trainee in the Computer Organized Laser Miniaturization Program (COLMP), a collaboration by the smart people of planet Earth, Mars, and Planet F32. Planet F32 has a name, but apparently no one can pronounce the name. It gets better. You are actually part of the Zondo Quest Group II, a group dedicated to take down the Evil Power Master (don’t laugh), who is destroying planets one by one after he has:
unlocked some of the secrets of the universe and is able to cause the disintegration of matter. Everything crumbles as molecules break up and atoms fall apart – sometimes with devastating explosions.
Yes, Mr Montgomery, and it’s called “nuclear fission”. And, judging from what COLMP is trying to do, perhaps the plan is to… miniaturize the Evil Power Master? Hmm, perhaps the young kids playing this one aren’t meant to think that far or deep.
Unlike what the title suggests, this one isn’t always about being captured by ant people. Instead, you discover that a team is missing – and in a research center all about shrinking things, what could have happened, hmm? – so you and your partner must do something. Depending on your choices, the ant people are either somewhat-good or pure nasty, and sometimes you don’t even meet the ants at all. You may meet the Evil Power Master, you may not, but alas, there is never an option to tell that fellow how embarrassing that name is.
Since this is a gamebook by RA Montgomery, elements of randomness are to be expected. Still, things aren’t so bad here. Things are still linear, and there is a nasty pattern here of you having to turn consecutive pages with no option given, only to be suddenly splatted in the face with a bad ending that comes out of nowhere. Still, there is a stronger story element here than before, in the sense that the bad endings often fit the context of the direction a certain plot path is taking. The paths that lead to a good ending are pretty decent, although beware, there are also paths in which you may choose to do what seems like the moral or sensible thing, only to be hit by a bad ending.
All in all, Prisoner of the Ant People is a pretty unexpectedly decent entry from Mr Montgomery, given his track record. It does not feel half-baked as previous gamebooks in this line by him, and there seems to an effort to give the campaign a stronger sense of plot and direction. Why, there are moments when it is almost… arresting. Imagine that.