TSR, $2.95, ISBN 0-88038-299-6
Jeff Grubb has written a number of pretty good fantasy novels for TSR’s Forgotten Realms setting, but his gamebook, The Amazing Spider-Man: City in Darkness is merely an average effort. Perhaps, expectedly, the storytelling element is much better than the gameplay design.
You are Peter Parker, a mere reporter for the Daily Bugle by day and, when villainy is abound and your clothes need to fall off, you’re Spider-Man to the rescue. You do know of Spider-Man, right? In this one, mysterious villains are trying to control all the power supply in New York City, and it is up to you to catch up with all your old friends like Kingpin and Mysterio to determine which one of your drinking buddies is behind this nonsense.
You will need a die to play this one, ideally, since you will be asked to roll against your stats. You have a set of ability stats here such as Fighting, Endurance, and such as well as the standard Health points and luck modifier points (called Karma here). You will not be asked to roll die in combat encounters, but you will be asked to roll against a certain ability stat of yours in various sticky situations. This gamebook is like a bridge between Choose Your Own Adventure and Fighting Fantasy, in other words.
You can fail your quest here, but there is nothing too violent or gory in such moments. Marvel Comics won’t like to see their bestselling hero being brutally violated by midget hobgoblins, after all. However, it is actually quite hard to fail unless you are deliberately being contrary – the right choices are pretty clear most of the time, and if your character behaves like a hero with a decent amount of common sense. you’ll be in the clear most of the time.
The adventure is quite linear, therefore it doesn’t offer much room or flexibility for exploration or replayability. However, the storytelling element to this campaign is excellent. Mr Grubb has your Spider-Man wisecracking away like a droll darling, although this effect may be lost on younger readers, heh. Still, having Spider-Man yell “Cowabunga!” is probably pushing it too far. The writing is above average, compelling, and, most importantly, entertaining. So much so that while this is an average gamebook when it comes to design and play, it is nonetheless a blast to play due to the strong story and upbeat writing.