Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-84774-0
You and your two best friends Jason and Stacey are checking out a part of town new to you when you come across a big, scary house. There is a sign by the front gate. One side says “PLEASE COME IN”, but the other side says “BEWARE – DANGER”. It doesn’t matter – you all are going in. The owner, a bald and creepy-looking man, mistakes you for guys from the Acme Cleaners at first, but offers you fifty bucks each anyway if you will clean up the mess in his huge garage. He says never to open the green door over there, so of course Stacey’s ring falls off and slips under the door.
Yes, you happily waltz into someone’s private property, and then happily stay on in the home belonging to a creepy stranger. Your parents need to evaluate their priorities when it comes to teaching you survival skills, clearly.
Anyway, past the green door is an amazing mad scientist lab full of cool-looking electronic things and gadgets. Is… is that a robot? Should you turn it on and ask it to clean up the garage for you? Hey, that pinball machine looks awesome, maybe you have time to try it out!
The Creepy Creations of Professor Shock is about mad science, toned down to a more kiddie-friendly level naturally, and it offers two different kind of arcs.
Play the pinball machine and you get zapped inside and come out in a fantasy world where everything is backwards. Clearly inspired by tales like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – you need to seek out a cruel, amoral Queen to get back to the real world, heh – and The Phantom Tollbooth, this one is still pretty dark. Zany, weird things can cross your path here, and the whole thing is a surreal kind of escapism… until you get ripped to pieces by flying sharks, for example. Oh, and watch out for murderous reflections in the mirror. Hmm, was Jordan Peele a fan of this gamebook when he was a kid?
Activate the robot and you soon find yourself caught in the Goosebumps version of Terminator: Rise of the Machines, what with the machines and electronics in this arc are staging a revolt against humans. The bad endings in this arc can be more hilarious than disconcertingly brutal compared to those of the other ones (the one with the bicycle is hilarious), but this arc isn’t bad in comparison. It’s equally wacky and funny, with zany twists and turns that don’t feel as LOL random as other gamebooks in this series.
Even better, each arc is actually well put together. There is a strong story line in each one, and getting to the sole happy ending (or two in the machines-gone-wild arc) means going through twists and options that feel as much like an interactive campaign as it is a short Goosebumps story as well. Unlike many gamebooks in this series, the happy endings don’t disappoint or feel tacked on compared to the bad ones, so getting them feels like a well-earned reward after a sometimes life-threatening adventure!
The Creepy Creations of Professor Shock adds the sparks and the jolts back into this series, and it’s definitely worth your time to check out each arc at least twice!