Usborne Books, £9.99, ISBN 978-0-7460-8734-3
Puzzle Gamebook, 2007 (Reissue)
Puzzle Adventures Omnibus Volume 2 is the second compilation of seven Usborne Puzzle Adventures titles that were previously published separately. These gamebooks are more of a puzzle-solving exercise than a campaign involving dice and pencil, as you will be asked to solve puzzles, decipher clues, and the like with every turn of the page.
Like most compilations, the gamebooks in this collection can be quite uneven in quality, but on the whole they are quite entertaining with stronger plots and more coherent characterization compared to the previous omnibus.
There are three adventures featuring Agent Arthur here. Agent Arthur’s Jungle Journey sees that fellow and his dog Sleuth infiltrating some South American smugglers’ jungle hideout to stop the sale of a dangerous poison. Agent Arthur on the Stormy Seas takes him and Sleuth to the high seas where they cross paths with naughty pirates and Agent Arthur’s Arctic Adventure have them tackling some villains in the Arctic Circle. All three adventures have their share of difficult puzzles, but there is a pattern to each puzzle that allows you to solve similar future puzzles once you’ve figured out how to solve one. Perhaps it is a bad idea to pack these adventures so close together, heh.
The standalone adventures are more unpredictable and therefore more challenging in some ways. The Vanishing Village, which involves two kids trying to break a curse of a strange village that exists in some kind of limbo, is especially difficult, requiring a sharp eye and some thinking outside the box. You will be better off photocopying some of the pages, cutting out the clues on the photocopied pages, and piecing them together, because otherwise you’d have a tough time with the puzzles. The Ghost in the Mirror, where three kids stumble upon a plot involving a scientist trapped in a big house, and The Haunted Tower, where two kids stumble upon a plot involving a professor trapped in a tower, are similar not only in the premise but also in the difficulty level. There are some tough nuts to crack, but on the whole, they are nowhere as challenging as those puzzles in The Vanishing Village. The submarine-and-seafaring adventure Search for the Sunken City is somewhere in between – it’s not as hard as The Vanishing Village, but it’s somewhat more difficult than the other two adventures.
The adventures here are better written and the characters, especially those in the Agent Arthur adventures, are definitely more memorable than the ones in the previous compilation. Puzzle Adventure Omnibus Volume 2 won’t make you happy if you prefer a more action-oriented kind of gamebook, but if you want to work some brain cells on a leisurely afternoon, this one is worth a look or two.