Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-21062-9
Return to the Carnival of Horrors is, of course, the sequel to Escape from the Carnival of Horrors, the very first gamebook in the Give Yourself Goosebumps line. Appropriately enough, this sequel is the final one with those holographic covers.
As you can guess, there is a new carnival in town, and your uncle and aunt encourage you to give it a visit. You still have nightmares from your visit to the Carnival of Horrors, but nah. You and your friend Patty agree that this can’t be the same carnival, so the two of you along with your cousin Floyd head on over. Yikes! You realize too late that it is the same Carnival of Horrors, and this time, Big Al is on to you and he will make sure that you will not escape. You are told that you escaped the last time via a ride – you may have escaped via another way, but never mind, this isn’t serious business – so do you want to try that option again? Or would you try to escape another way?
Both routes basically are about the same thing: run, run, run for your lives. It’s still mostly sideshows versus rides, and you may need some items to get a happy ending if you stumble down certain paths, so much of this campaign will feel familiar if you have played the previous gamebook. However, this time around there are far more memorable storytelling elements, with Big Al having a more prominent presence here as the big bad and the background of the carnival getting fleshed out more. Yes, there are still random bad endings, and yes, there are still plenty of cringe-tastic puns and all, but this one is actually a far more enjoyable experience. Compared to the previous gamebook, this one feels more fleshed out, better put together, and far more entertaining.
Sequels rarely live up to the hype of the original, but this is one of those cases where the sequel improves on the original. Talk about a big time fun!