Comics : Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (TSR) #1

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

It's a book! It's a game! No, it's a Marvel Super-Heroes Adventure Gamebook!

In Detail...

"Spider-Man: City in Darkness"
Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (TSR) #1
Sep 1986 : SM Guest
Find ISBN 0880382996
Publisher:  TSR, Inc.
Writer:  Jeff Grubb
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (TSR, UK) #1

When I was a young lad, I was one of those "sad" role-players. Actually, most role-players aren't that sad, in fact as a role-player and a gamer, I had countless of friends. Heck, sitting 'round gaming was a lot better than hanging out on the streets.

In those days before computer games, if you felt like playing some sort of adventure game, but couldn't get your friends together for a role-playing session, then your choices were actually pretty limited. One option however were always these things here - adventure gamebooks!

Adventure gamebooks came in two basic types. One was a "choose your path to adventure". Pretty simple, you read a paragraph, and then would be given a choice. "The path forks. Go left? Turn to page 16. Go right? Turn to page 43." You would jump around from page to page, until you either rescued the princess, or fell into a fiery chasm. Very, very simple to understand.

The second type was... well, basically the same, except it involved some tactical/random elements. Your "character" (i.e. Spidey, which is to say, you the reader) has some statistics. You have ratings for "Fighting", "Intelligence", "Agility with Webbing", etc. Plus you have Karma Points and Health Points. On some pages, instead of a simple choice, you have a task. You have to roll dice to see if you achieve a goal, or else you fight against an opponent, rolling dice to take shots at each other, using up your hitpoints (i.e. taking damage) to determine if you fail, or can proceed to future points in the game. Like a very simple video game, with you as both computer and player.

These two books are in the latter category. A little more complicated, but in compensation, you could actually "play" the same book a few times, deciding maybe to avoid a tough opponent, in order to save your webbing for a difficult task later.

These books are regular paperback size. 190 pages or so. There's a tear-out card in the front with all your character's stats, that you can also use as a bookmark in case you get interrupted mid-adventure! These books are mass-market paper, and they're getting on for twenty years old. Also, remember that these books were targeted at kids. The combination of aging, and teen-inflicted damage means that it's near impossible to find copies in near-mint condition.

This, the first book in the series, features you as Spider-Man pitting your wits, your instinct, and your luck against Doc Ock and Electro, with a few other villains thrown in on the way. This is classic Spidey. Sure, any quality in the writing is completely ruined by the childish target audience and the demands of the format, but what did you expect?

As for whether the books are actually fun to "play"? Well, my memories of first playing one back in the late 80's sure says so. Then again, looking back at my collection of 80's CDs, maybe my judgement wasn't that hot back then.

I'm loathe to replay them now in order to validate my recollections, firstly just in case I shatter my childhood memory of happiness, and secondly because I don't think the brittle glue on the spine will handle all that flicking back and forth at this age!

In General...

Awww... who am I kidding. This book (and the other volumes in this series, including a second Spidey appearance) are the culmination of a very special type of popular culture, the likes of which we will never see again. They form a very special part of my Spidey collection, and I'm gonna rate accordingly.

Overall Rating...

A true classic Spidey collectable. Five fondly-remembered webs.