In this episode, we take a break from our Teen Titans Retrospective and dive into the Goosebumps spinoff series “Give yourself Goosebumps.” We originally planned to tackle both Escape from the Carnival of Horrors and Scream of the Evil Genie but we had so much fun reading the first book that we did a whole episode on it! We tackled a Reptile Petting Zoo, played a Wheel of Chance with a parrot, and revived an evil dummy.
The Goosebumps books are one of the most popular things 90’s kids talk about. There are a lot of funny and great reviews on the internet analyzing and critically reviewing this horror series for kids. But one thing I noticed is that though people may talk about the books and its rather awfully made tv-series, few consider the Choose Your Own Adventure-style series, Give Yourself Goosebumps.
I actually prefer GYG over the original series mainly because they were just so fun to read. Reading them was almost like playing a video game as you want to achieve 100% completion even though it wasn’t necessary.
I’ve always associated GYG loosely with October. Not just because of the scary aspect but every October, my local public library would have a used book sale. I liked to look through the filled-to-the-brim bookshelves and smell that nice old, book scent. The book sale was always partially outside though underneath these big tents that sheltered the books. As such, you had to wear a jacket and try to stay warm despite the cool temperature. It was at these books sales when I was introduced to GYG.
I’m not one to usually collect things save bowties, vests, and other dress clothes, but the GYG was an exception to this. Every time I would go to the book sale, I would buy all the GYG books I didn’t have even if they were below my age range. They were that entertaining.
Anyone who has read a Choose Your Own Adventure book will instantly be familiar with a GYG book. You have a series of choices to make as you progress through the story. Some decisions will take you through different plots while others can spell doom for you. Your decisions have a crucial impact on the story and can determine if you come out okay or not.
GYG takes that concept and plays with it. Most of the endings can lead to your death, even if it’s not explicitly stated, or lead you trapped in some horrible situation. There are only a few “good” endings and even then these can be not that pleasant (in true Goosebumps fashion).
The GYG books usually have two main plots that are determined fairly early on. I find myself favoring one of these plots over another though this could be due to selective bias. You can’t really blame me though, right? After going through one plot and learning about your protagonists and antagonists, you have to retread old ground and relearn the characters again as they are different a second time through. It irks me but hey, that’s a choose-your-own-adventure format for you. I would say the books that do this the most for me are Creepy Creations of Professor Shock, Your Plant Food, and Shop Til You Drop…Dead! Creepy Creations needs a special mention because of its weird, mirror universe storyline. You’re basically transported to a mirror world, like Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass, and you have to survive the world using backwards logic, it’s pretty great.
One thing GYG does, particularly later in the series, is incorporating items into your quest. You had to keep track of your items along the way and know when to use them in certain situations. Most of the time, you’ll use the wrong item but when you use it right man does that feel good. This use of items I believe first appears in one of my favorite GYG, Shop Til You Drop…Dead! It actually ties into why I like one plot over the other. In one of the plots, you have to survive the different floors of the mall and find an item associated with that floor. It’s really fun and you even had to go to certain floors first to find an item that will help you survive on a completely different floor.
The problem with the items is that the reader can cheat and pretend they have a certain item in order for them to succeed when they would otherwise fail. It’s not like the author or book is going to call you out on it.
That was my thought until I read Trick or…Trapped! (one of the last books in the series) where it straight up calls the reader out for cheating. I can’t remember what it was, but during the final scene of the game, you are asked to do a task and asked if you have this item or not to complete it. The twist is that the item doesn’t actually exist! When I read the choice I was quite confused because I hadn’t recalled coming across that item before and I was wondering how I missed it. Curious, I turned to the item’s page number and was amused to see that the book called you out for cheating and your character died from the monster.
Truth be told, it would be a definite stretch to say that all of the books are good. They are, at most, passable. The books I mentioned in this article are the ones you should go for if for whatever reason you wanted to read them.
Actually, the final book I want to talk about is probably the most infamous one, Into the Jaws of Doom. This book is thick relative to the other books. It was the first special edition book in the series. I have to say, when I first bought it, I immediately realized this was a special one. Not just its size but how it boasted there was only one good ending in the entire story. The book was straight up challenging the reader to beat it. It even had a special warning about the nature of this book and how you need to keep track of your inventory as well as a pair of dice on hand. And let me tell you, this book was hard. Everything you knew about GYG and its stakes rose two levels. The trickiest part was keeping track of your items and knowing when to use them. Some of the items were totally useless as well. The science museum setting was an excellent place for crazy things to happen. Probably the worse foe in that book was the “Visible Man,” that guy was nuts. There’s just no other book like it in the entire GYG series including the other Special Editions as well.
Unfortunately, I haven’t read all of the books in the series, particularly those in the Special Editions, but hey, the library book sale is this week, with any luck, maybe I’ll find a new book and give myself some goosebumps.
Easily in my top ten favorite video games list is the much praised Resident Evil 4. By all accounts, this is a game that I should not like or be interested in at all. A Horror, FPS game is definitely a far cry from my usual Pokemanz, Phoenix Wright, Professor Layton, and general platforming.
But I love the hell out of this game. In fact, it’s one of the few games that I regularly play and beat several times (at least five on my last count). I always get the hunger to play this game every time Autumn rolls around. I just want to curl up in a blanket and play it until the cows come home.
The first time I tried out this game was at a friend’s house when I was in high school. My friend turned off the lights and forced the wiimote and the nunchuck into my hands and had me play the first level. Holy crap that was scary for me, especially the village scene when you’re fighting all the villagers and mother-freaking Dr. Salvador. My hand shook as I tried desperately to hit my raging opponents.
It wasn’t until college that I truly got to play this game. My roommate let me play it with his Gamecube. It was hard at first for me to get into it but once I did I was hooked. I had to play it and I had to beat it.
One of the things I like about RE4 is the low-reliance of jump scares, something that I’m terrified of both in horror movies and in real life (via thunderstorms or worse, balloons). RE4 was nonetheless scary for me as its great atmosphere is perfect for spooking you. Though I never played any of the other Resident Evil games (save 1 briefly but I didn’t like it), I’ve come to learn over the years that RE4 changed the RE format for better or for worse. The camera over the shoulder was a great change (main reason why I couldn’t play the first one) but the shift towards a more action format was another. Anyways, this action-oriented format I know many people complained about as it made the games less scary but I respectively disagree. For a person who never played horror games before, RE4 can still be scary as you panicky waste your bullets and try desperately to survive despite your stupidity.
Here are some of the key scenes that scared the crap out of me for my first play through:
-The first time you arrive at the village (especially Dr. Salvador AKA the Chainsaw Guy)
-The first time a parasite explodes through a person’s head
-Those fucking dogs both at the Church but especially in the Maze
-The cabin scene when the villagers surround you and Luis a la Night of the Living Dead style
-The Garrador (the blind guys with Wolverine-like claws)
-The Invisible Novistadors (this was especially scary as you panic from all the different sounds in the cramp underground sewers)
-Salazar’s Right Hand Man (ah man screw this guy!)
-It (especially in that weird compartment area)
-Oven man (one of the rare but very well executed jump scares)
It’s hard to rank all these scary moments but there are definitely two moments that easily top the list. The second scariest thing in RE4 is when you’re playing as Ashley and you’re trying to get back to Leon. Holy fuck. That Ashley scene is what a lot of modern horror games do for their entire game. You have no ability to take down these guys, you’re only hope is to run away and try to live. That scene is especially bad thanks to the low lighting and the great use of sound effects. I should mention that this scene works well as you play as kick ass Leon throughout the entire game and suddenly you’re playing as Ashley. The degree of helplessness is incredibly high here.
First place though has to be the Regenerators. Fuck. These. Guys. They are scary as hell. I still get creeped out by them. Every time I see one I get the chills running down my spine. The way they walk, the way they just won’t die, but especially the way they sound. It’s especially bad when you’re running in the freezer-area trying to find that special sniper scope. Ah Jesus I get worked up just thinking about them.
So why do I keep playing it?
I think the best answer to this question can be summed up with one character.
God, I love the hell out of this guy, what’s his story???? Why does he have so many guns??? How is he able to teleport so quickly and survive all the infected villagers??? His funny but slightly cynical nature is so great that you can not love him. I always look forward to seeing him. He is my savior, he is my backup and he’s one of the few characters who won’t kill you so that’s nice.
You might think I’m joking, and I kind of am, but the Merchant is part of an overall world that is built just right. I like going into the world of RE4 and trying to find all the easter eggs, the hidden treasures, and the precious ammo. The game works quite well as you didn’t have to play any of the previous games. True, you might have the bonus of getting all the references and understanding the minor character’s motivations but that’s more of an afterthought.
The second thing that pulls me back in is that its perfect difficulty level. I still die every time I play it despite the number of times I beat the game. Professional Mode, however, really straightened me up and made me into a hardcore player. I would rely on the headshots and knife stabs so much that when I went back and played Normal mode again, I would be overflowing with ammo and health packs. Even so, the game can still be difficult for me and that’s why it’s still fun for me.
I may no longer be as scared of the game as I once was, but I can still enjoy its gameplay and its story. Long shot this may be but if I ever get a magic lamp, I would wish to forget all my memories of RE4 so I could have the pleasure of playing it all over again. It’s that good.
On a side note…Mary pointed this out to me one time but the guy who says “Resident Evil 4” on the title screen sounds just like Muscle Man from Regular Show. Yeah, doesn’t it?? I crack a smile every time I hear it now. I can imagine Muscle Man going up to Mordecai and Rigby and saying
“Yo dudes! Check out this sweeeet game here! It’s like the best game ever!”
“Oh yeah? What’s it called?”
“It’s called,” dramatic close up of Muscle Man’s face in shadow, “Resident…Evil…FOOOOOUR!”
And then they get sucked into the game and have to win it in order to escape it…because that’s Regular Show.