Based on Five Go Adventuring Again this seems to be partly a book and partly a game. It’s not quite like the ones where you create your own story by choosing what direction to go in, as it’s based on an existing story. Rather, and this is where it becomes a real game, you have choices to make and can either go from A – B in one go (if you get the question right) or you have to take a series of steps along the way thus picking up red herrings. The less red herrings you pick up along the way, the better your score. That’s how I understand it anyway, having flicked through the first few pages.
It’s just as well I’m not doing a textual comparison here as the first page is a truly hacked at version of the original – but it gets the point across that they can’t go to Anne’s home over Christmas, but must head to Kirrin where they will have a tutor. The whole story is chopped into fragments, so in order to read it it starts with section 1, then jumping to 7 then 10 (which is somewhat time consuming!).
In section 10 our first choice comes when they head to the train station. George insists the Kirrin train always leaves from platform 6, but their teacher tells them that’s wrong and it’s platform 8. Which platform do you go to?
I deliberated for a while, actually. George is so hot-headed and stubborn that I wondered if she might be wrong just this once. In the end I trusted her and chose platform 6 (moving to section 14), which turned out to be right.
This is where my problem starts. After section 14, you’re directed back to section 5 and continue the story. But I needed to know what would have happened had I got it wrong (I hate missing part of a story even if it’s just alternate events) so I skimmed through sections 19, 3 and 13 to rejoin the main story at section 5.
RED HERRINGS ABOUND
The next question doesn’t seem to have a right or wrong answer. Either Uncle Quentin is there to pick them up, or he isn’t. I chose to say he isn’t – to match the book. If I had chosen to say he did meet them at the station I would have taken an alternative route through the next sections, and actually pick up one red herring, so it seems that was a wrong answer. (There were two red herrings for picking the wrong platform earlier.)
I’ve picked up a red herring now, though! I honestly didn’t believe that Timmy would bark at Uncle Quentin coming home, but apparently it’s because he’s driven up in his new car. Hmm. (Incidentally they still have the pony-trap which featured in the previous choice for the reader).
I’ve had to stop playing at section 205 (there are 355 in total) as reading it the way I am, it takes a long time! If I’d just going through the sections related to my answers it would have been quicker, but I’m obsessive and I’m reading every section back and forth…
Reading/playing is already slowed down by having to flick pages back and forth to reach each section in turn. Sometimes – regardless of which route I took – I had to jump through four or five sections to get to the next choice but I suppose that might be necessary to prevent cheating. It’s obviously carefully organised so that you don’t reveal any answers too early, and thankfully are never sent more than 15 or 20 pages in either direction at any time. I did sometimes find it hard to remember where I’d come from though. At the start of many sections there was italic text stating “if you have arrived from section#, score 1 red herring”, etc. Considering I was jumping back and forth even more than necessary I struggled to remember what section I had just been on!
I have to say that having read the book many times really helped. I just had to pick whichever answer fitted the book best – like what Mr Roland looked like, or who found the secret items in the farmhouse.
There were sometimes that it was purely luck though. One choice was between turning right or left on the way to the farmhouse – the wrong way would have given me FOUR red herrings, plus another one if I’d answered another question wrongly along the way.
Basically picking a wrong answer leads to a longer story, full of plotlines that aren’t from the book. If you say that the angry voice in the hall is “someone else” rather than “Uncle Quentin” you get led down a side-track about sheep which have escaped their pen, picking up multiple red herrings along the way. That would make it easier to guess, I think, as some would clearly add more to the story.
All of those factors make me confused as to how this is supposed to be a game with a score. There’s no puzzle factor to the questions, simply choices like which room to look in first. It’s so arbitrary and random sometimes that to get red herrings seems very unfair! There are even one or two instances where the “correct” route and the “wrong” route are the same length and have arbitrary differences, so it makes red herrings even more redundant.
TEXT AND ILLUSTRATIONS
The main text is lifted from the real book, but as I mentioned at the start it is pretty much mutilated. It has to be shortened to fit in – as this book is already 366 pages long. Around 30 or 40% is additional material for the red herrings, which unfortunately doesn’t leave room for the less essential parts of the story. It’s all there, but only in a bare-bones sort of way. Plus it’s horribly updated with “mum” and “dad”, torches instead of candles and there are even shell suits in the illustrations (if you’re going to use ‘modern’ illustrations at least use ones from the current decade! These game books were originally published in the 80s, so I’m assuming these are the original illustrations that came with them. It’s such a pity Hodder didn’t reinstate the Eileen Soper ones.)
According to Goodreads I’m almost 60% of the way through the book and at my count I’ve picked up six red herrings. I’ll let you know how many I’ve accumulated by the end of the book – I’m aiming to be under 25 so I can consider myself “very good indeed”.