Usborne Books, £9.99, ISBN 978-0-7460-8733-6
Puzzle Gamebook, 2007 (Reissue)
Puzzle Adventures Omnibus Volume 1 is a compilation of seven Usborne Puzzle Adventures titles. These gamebooks aren’t like your typical hack-and-slash stuff, however, as you will be following some kids in each story, and by the end of each double page entry, you will be asked to solve a puzzle. This puzzle could be anything, from a simple hurdle like discovering a way out of a maze-like situation to a more complicated challenge like putting together everything you have seen and read in previous pages to come to a conclusion of some sort. There are clues to each puzzle if you are stumped, but they are written in a way that you will need a mirror to read them. Indeed, if you have a kid interested in such things, it may be a good idea to give him a small mirror, a magnifying class, and a Sherlock Holmes hat to wear so that he will be kept amused for a while. The solutions to those puzzles are also present, often with accompanying explanations.
Escape from Blood Castle is the first adventure, which reflects the odd arrangement of this compilation because this deceptively simple adventure is actually the toughest in the entire compilation. This one follows a pimply kid named Intrepid Ivor as he attempts to infiltrate the home of his wicked Uncle Boris to find evidence that Boris had cheated him of a family inheritance. This one is very tough. The first puzzle, which requires you to figure out a way for Ivor to enter Blood Castle, requires some thinking outside the box, and the subsequent puzzle involves some careful map study and navigation. From there onward, the difficulty level rarely lets up, making this one one tough nut to crack.
The next adventure, The Curse of the Lost Idol, is a walk in the park in comparison. Annie is a young girl who has won a place in an exclusive party to observe up close the recently discovered a long lost idol of some dead Pharaoh. The idol goes missing halfway, so it is Annie who solves the mystery and pinpoints the culprits. The next adventure, Murder on the Midnight Plane, is equally easy as you follow two twins solve a murder on an airplane, although this one may be pretty tough if you don’t have a calculator with you as some laborious calculations are required at occasional points in this adventure. Likewise, The Incredible Dinosaur Expedition – in which a bunch of kids accidentally stumble back in time to discover the local nasty paleontologist’s plot – and The Intergalactic Bus Trip – in which some kids with some alien friends’ aid try to find their way back to Earth – are pretty easy.
The level of difficulty finally gets cranked up a little bit in The Train to Ancient Rome, a time travel adventure where two siblings take a train back to Ancient Rome to help their uncle foil a plan to assassinate the Emperor. It’s not that the puzzles by themselves are tough, it’s that some of the puzzles require the careful reader to piece together things he or she has read in previous pages. Danger at Demon’s Cave is also quite tough for the same reason. Both of them still can’t come close to match the difficulty level of the first adventure though!
While Puzzle Adventure Omnibus Volume 1 is a pretty fun gamebook, things could be better. Some of the adventures, like The Intergalactic Bus Trip, Escape from Blood Castle, and The Incredible Dinosaur Expedition, have barely any plot, which make them stand out like sore thumbs among other adventures which do have some semblance of plot. Because the easier adventures are all packed in the middle, the middle portion of this compilation is pretty dull at times, especially when you realize that some of the challenges in these easier adventures are repeated with only slight modification in several different adventures. After a while, you will know how to crack codes and such without thinking too hard.