Usborne Books, 14.99, ISBN 978-1-4095-9788-9
Puzzle Gamebook, 2006 (Reissue)
Oh, this is nice. The Usborne Ultimate Fantasy Puzzle Book is a compilation of all four entries into the Quest series, all in a lovely, sturdy hardcover format complete with a handy ribbon bookmark. It certainly is value for money if you’re not keen on either hunting around or paying extra for the now out-of-print individual titles. Be warned, though, this one is a scavenger hunt thing, so a magnifying glass will come in handy as Andy Dixon and illustrators Nick Harris and Simone Boni will not make it easy for you.
Incidentally, there one isn’t the most suitable diversion for young kids, especially those who are prone to giving up easily on tough puzzles, and it has some sly humor that may appeal to older kids, even adults.
Starting off the show is Dragon Quest, which sees Bag P Dribbet, the Mayor of Shortsville, asking for brave souls to come save them from a dire fate: total baldness. The evil Winston the Wig-Wearing Wizard has, in a fit of jealousy of the blessedly hirsute, has engaged the Well of Spells to zap everyone in Shortsville bald, and now you have to locate the Well, which is guarded by a dragon (hence the name of this campaign), and defeat the Wizard as well as reverse the spell in the process. Doing so requires plenty of hunting of things along the way, and there are many, many things to look out for.
You will most likely spend a long time in the first picture spread, in which you must locate your three companions among a huge sea of people. That’s a good indication of what the rest of the adventure will be: a lot of squinting and searching. Mind you, the folks behind the book are sneaky. For a long time, you may be focused on the face of this person you are looking for, for instance, only to realize after half an hour of searching that they have stuck the guy in the picture spread in his side or back profile. The illustrations are lovely, even if everyone looks like they have a touch of some goony gene in them, and really, good luck finding things.
The only drawback are the solutions, which are so small that looking for the numbers corresponding to the location of the items becomes an even harder challenge than looking for the items themselves. A magnifying glass will be really handy here, as the other option is to suffer blurred vision at the end of the day.
Next is King Arthur’s Knight Quest, which is much easier than the previous campaign, as things are more straightforward and less hidden all around. Basically, the evil witch Morgan le Fay has kidnapped nine of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. You and three companions will have to locate and rescue each knight before confronting Morgan le Fay, and your reward will be a seat at the Round Table. In this one, there are more puzzle elements instead of just looking for things, but these puzzles are pretty simple. There are also fewer things to look for, as each time you free a knight, he tags along, so each subsequent picture spread becomes more crowded with people. Still, the whole thing is fun enough as a nice breather after the eyesight-killing challenge of the previous campaign.
Sword Quest has been reviewed separately, and you can check that review here.
Finally, there is the sole science-fiction entry, Star Quest. The alien Plib is desperate. Evil Lord Glaxx is turning his home planet into a frozen wasteland by using a giant laser thingy to suck out all energy from the planet. Naturally, he needs to pick three random children (you and two other kids) to help him save the planet, and he does this by crashing onto some random space theme park to look for these kids. That makes sense.
By now, you will notice a pattern to these campaigns – you always look for your companions in the crowd for the first “quest”, and there will also be the same old search for food, fuel, et cetera. Star Quest is the most kiddy-like campaign of the lot, as the language used feels like it’s aimed at kids ten years and below. However, the difficulty level is high. The objects you will be looking for will be stuck into the picture spreads in angles that you will never consider, or obscured in a way that can be easily overlooked during your first dozen attempts at looking for it. Therefore, as vapid as this one may be, the overall experience remains a tough nut to crack and hence, fun.
The Usborne Ultimate Fantasy Puzzle Book is all in all a nice way to kill time if you’re into scavenger hunt games. However, the experience can also be unnecessarily frustrating due to the solutions being so stupidly small that it may be easier to just give up than to squint even harder at the solutions. Tackle this one if you want, but do make sure to do so when you really have a bit of time to spend on this one. And bring patience – lots of it.
Cantankerous muffin who loves boys that sparkle, unicorns, money, chocolates, and fantastical stories.