FICTION

Escape from a Video Game: The Secret of Phantom Island

Andrews McMeel. (Escape from a Video Game). Sept. 2020. 176p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781524858803.
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Gr 4-8–The reader is the hero of the greatest video game never launched in this interactive title. Readers step into treasure-hunter Cooper Hawke’s shoes to find the secret of Phantom Island. As a plane heads at full speed to crash land, do you choose a grenade launcher or a wingsuit? Plopped down in a world of killer bees and carnivorous plants, readers must solve puzzles, anagrams, and sudoku to move forward on the journey. Collect achievement letters along the way to unlock the secret message at the end of the book. Make the wrong choice, and you’re sent back to checkpoints to start over. Face tests of intelligence and logic as you explore volcanoes, ancient temples, and laboratories (think Jurassic Park). Scan explorer William Shandling’s diary for clues. Brady’s sardonic wink to video game clichés includes second-person narration and obligatory signature weapons. When you die, you always get to start over. High stakes situations—monster chases in tunnels, giant gorillas choking tree houses—can make for random and awkward story lines, but readers will stick with it for the interactive problem-solving and breakneck pacing rather than the plot. Keep a pencil and paper handy to work out clues and keep track of page numbers. Leafing back and forth through the book may prove tricky, and the story could use reiteration of the central premise.
VERDICT An engrossing ride for die-hard “Choose Your Own Adventure” fans and video game devotees.

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