Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-18734-1
You’re vacationing again, so yes, it’s time to cavort with ghouls, monsters, and such again. In The Curse of the Cave Creatures, you are stuck with your bully of a cousin, Dennis, and his clingy sister Nancy, and neither of them is exactly fun company. You decide to visit a cave while trekking around the desert, and in there, you find a mysterious, shiny bear skull on an altar. You touch it, and oops, it’s broken. Worse, you have released the Cave Spirit, and a shaman shows up out of nowhere to tell you that, instead of being appreciative of his release, the evil spirit will now hunt you and turn you into a painting to adorn the wall of this cave.
You can, of course, take down the Cave Spirit before he takes you down, and to do this, the Shaman of the Bear Skull offers you a choice: he can give you some magical weapons so that you can go toe to toe against the Cave Spirit as a hunter, or he can spare you some magical talismans so that you can engage in a battle of spells and magic against it instead. So, what will it be?
This one is basically two small campaigns packed in one collection, as each decision you make will take you down a different path. As a result, each campaign is pretty linear, with usually one of the two options typically given to you designed to send you off unceremoniously to a bad end. Given that each route has only one happy ending, there are many ways for you to fail here, and a few of the bad endings come up randomly, often due to your character deciding to do some really stupid thing with you being given no option to slap some sense into your character before it’s too late.
Still, the whole thing is fun. The hunter route is arguably the far more interesting one, as your bully cousin acts as a secondary antagonist to complicate matters, and it’s actually a shame that there’s no way to
kill that son of a get him to get his just desserts. Dennis is one of the most vicious family members to show up in this gamebook line – his actions often deliberately put you in direct danger – so it can be quite a shock to realize that this miserable turd gets away in the end without even a slap in the face with a crowbar. The pitched battle against the many forms of the Cave Spirit is fun, however, and your choice of magical weapons actually matter here. Again, whether you have picked the right weapon can sometimes be random, but the whole thing is an exciting rush of a race against time to save yourself.
The magic route is a more typical campaign made up of random episodes of wacky but dangerous events, and it also feels far less shorter and less memorable. It’s okay on its own, but feels outclassed and less imaginative in comparison to the other route.
The Curse of the Cave Creatures doesn’t have a strong plot and you can argue that only one of the two routes here stand out in a memorable manner. Still, that superior route is solid enough on its own to carry this one to make this one a perfectly bearable (sorry, I have to say that) Give Yourself Goosebumps entry.