Choose your own adventure in the classic, solitaire fashion!
Atari. Cassettes. VHS. Safety Dance. Basic Set. By Balloon to the Sahara. Warlock of Firetop Mountain. Mountain of Mirrors. If you are a Generation X-er you likely recognize all of these references. A singular thrill particular to that time were the slim paperbacks that housed a roleplaying game experience within. The text set up the situation, your choices were defined at the bottom of the page. What you chose sent you to the next page. You could, and usually did, get one of many bad endings. Part literature, part puzzle, and part game, the books were new, exciting, and fun. And in the case of the Steve Jackson produced works, employed rudimentary game mechanics to add an even greater depth to the experience. They were inexpensive, ephemeral, and so ubiquitous that they were era-defining.
And then one day *poof!* all those lines of books were gone. The 90s were a new decade bearing new trends and much that was loved was forgot and left behind.
Studio 9 would like to politely remind you that this stuff was cool.
Midnight Legion Box Set by Aaron Emmel and C. Aaron Kreader does a fantastic job of bringing back a lost genre of gaming and bringing it into the present. While the basic read-and-react gameplay remains in place, some very basic and light game rules add and element of randomness and the option for adding a second player to the mix expands the genre. (The second player essentially functions as a narrator and GM–an excellent method for turning this into a parent and child activity.) This is a small boxed set rather than a single volume, however. A first for the genre, I believe.
So what’s in the box? The nice, solid, beautifully illustrated box?
The first volume in the trilogy, 0peration Deep Sleep, the Memory and Rulebook, a map, and two very cool custom d6. (These dice could pull double duty for Metamorphosis Alpha, no problem.) About what I would have expected in any number of classic 80s era RPG sets, although the box for this falls in between White Box and Basic Set in size. (And worth noting, much sturdier than either of those were. This box is actually worth of mention with the likes of the Avalon Hill bookcase games in quality.)
Rules are simple. Dead simple. Very kid friendly, and as mentioned earlier, for younger kids Dad or Mom can function as the “Player 2” guiding the story along and handling the bookkeeping. So what’s the story?
As the cover suggests, this is a Science Fiction tale. You wake up in a medical bed connected to a bunch of tubes. You have amnesia. Total amnesia. You have no idea where you are, or who you are, or what’s friendly, or what would like to eat you. As the name “Memory and Rulebook” suggests, you will be gradually getting pieces of the puzzle back as you go.
As to the story, well–telling you the details would sort of ruin the experience. I will say that it does a splendid job of evoking the eighties material that inspired it, in both writing and art. Stylistically, I felt this was a very strong nod to the Choose Your 0wn Adventure books that founded the genre, with the rules mechanics that Steve Jackson so sagaciously introduced in his now-classic contributions. It’s a page turner. It feels right. I was 12 years old, hunkered down in the old Junior High library again trying to burn through the story before the bell rang. The introduction of dice and rules adds a nice touch pen-and-paper RPG character to the experience.
I highly recommend finding a quiet place with a lot of natural sunlight and taking Midnight Legion for a ride. Better yet, if you have a child the right age, bring them along for the journey.
I promise, a good time will be had by all.
I’m looking forward to obtaining Books 2 and 3.