Scholastic, $3.99, ISBN 0-590-41974-9
As you play more and more Give Yourself Goosebumps gamebook, you may realize that perhaps the monsters and villains aren’t bad sorts. After all, the protagonists tend to be badly behaved brats with a sense of entitlement that makes them believe that they are above both the law and common sense – perfect examples of human dregs that should be eliminated from the gene pool for the betterment of the Homo sapiens race. It makes sense to get rid of these unwanted wretches early before they do more harm.
Take a look at You’re Plant Food! for example. You are a brat going on a field trip with your class to the E Ville Creeper Botanical Gardens. The place is a huge mansion typical of that of a lair filled with vampires and worse, and it’s in a rundown condition too, as your teacher almost stepped onto a rotten plank at the porch of the entrance. As he is distracted, you and your friend Kerry naturally have the bright idea of sneaking into the place yourself. Gloomy, terrifying place with clear risk of injuries due to lack of maintenance… what can go wrong?
Of course, it won’t do to root for your character to be useful and become actual plant food, although there are some opportunities here for your character to be just that. It just won’t do… right?
Actually sneak into the building, and you will be pitted against giant bug creatures who want to capture you and your teacher as well as classmates for… hmm, it’s not really stated, but a xenomorph-style reception would be so cool. This one is a standard bog run-screaming-and-hope-you-get-lucky arc that railroads you into various annoying and often dumb situations, and you can just hope you are choosing the options that are designed to lead you to a halfway decent ending.
If you decide to go in through the front door, you are given the options to explore the various sections of the plant exhibits to write your field report. Each section has its share of often random encounters, and you may need to collect some items in the right order in each section to extricate yourself safely from a perilous situation or two. This one is arguably the less interesting arc, as it’s a standard montage of random encounters thrown together with very little option to escape the railroading this campaign will force you through.
The happy endings – all three of them – are short and uninspired, and the bad endings are kind of predictable, with you being eaten mostly. Worse, both arcs end prematurely, with very few memorable encounters to make it worth the time.
In fact, everything about You’re Plant Food! feels underdeveloped and even rote and formulaic. Perhaps it could be better if the campaign had been longer, or each arc had given its own gamebook, but as it is, this one is pure filler to pad out the series. Hopefully not too many plants died to provide the paper for this gamebook to be printed on!