Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-93492-9
Well, it’s about time Give Yourself Goosebumps take on the evil toy trope. Whether it’s Small Soldiers, Chucky, or André Toulon’s puppets, Toy Terror: Batteries Included have throwbacks to these and more.
You are a winner, although given what kind of gamebooks we are talking about here, the definition of “winner” is up to debate. Yes, you’ve come in first place in a contest… that you don’t recall entering at all. Still, the prize sounds awesome. You can choose to receive the Annihilator 3000, the coolest toy robot of the moment, or visit the Hasley Toy Factory with a friend and pick a free video game while you are there. What you choose will determine the arc you will find yourself in for the rest of the campaign.
Picking the Annihilator 3000 will strand you in the more boring arc, as it’s a straightforward pitting of your character against a robot gone wild, bent on destroying everything in its path. You may get a happy ending or experience an error 404, but this route holds few surprises or interesting, memorable moments. It’s what it is, and it ends when you are done.
The other option offers an interesting arc. Indeed, this arc feels a lot like an actual, probably unsold Goosebumps novel converted into a gamebook. It feels like a real story in many ways. Basically, your BFF is grounded, so you settle on bringing Benny, the new kid in the neighborhood, as your plus one for the trip to the toy factory. Sure enough, depending on your choices, you may find yourself trapped in a factory in which the toys are alive and a female Hitler-wannabe doll, Nasty Kathy, is mass producing human-sized dolls for clearly nefarious reasons. Alternatively, you may find yourself escaping the factory with a sobering realization that human-sized dolls have already infiltrated society, pod people on the loose-style, and you may be the next to be converted.
Interestingly, both spin-off routes in this arc, when put together, will give you the whole picture of why you win the contest, Benny’s real identity, the dolls’ plans, and how these dolls are infiltrating the society around them. You can’t be in both routes at the same time, of course, which adds to the fun of replaying this campaign. The best ending in this second arc resembles the happy ending of a kiddie horror movie – it’s really a good closure of the arc – which again reinforces the impression that this gamebook may have begun life as a novel.
The downside of this approach is that the Annihilator 3000 arc feels even more of a filler. If you pick this arc, you will miss out on a whole lot, maybe 99.5%, of the fun found in this one. Pick the other one, and you will find yourself starring in a fun, occasionally dangerous, sometimes poignant, story of toys gone amok versus toys with hearts of gold – a story that may linger in your mind for quite a while.