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Game Tale

Big Box Gamers

(this review is a translation from Bulgarian)
(original review can be found here)



This week, I have the pleasure of presenting a unique book where you are not the hero. The hero is your child. This is the first published gamebook (or “GameTale,” as the author calls it) targeted at children ages 3 to 8. Inside, very young readers will assume the role of Gremmy the little gremlin and enter a fantastic world in order to provide his greedy tummy with food for the winter.

The Book

Reading only a few lines will make it clear that the writing is aimed at kids: short sentences, simple words, diminutives galore, repetitions for emphasis and easier understanding. Since the protagonist is your child, the text follows the specific logic of children in order to build a bridge between The Big Adventure of the Little Gremlin and the young “reader.”

To the meadow, by the hole, came the Old and Wise Granny Dragon and announced that there would be no more food. While it was summer now, soon it would be autumn and then winter, and the blueberries, the strawberries, the mushrooms, and even the blackberries Gremmy loved so much, would be gone. That was how seasons worked. The gremlin didn’t know what seasons were, but his tummy grew very worried that there would be no food tomorrow.

The book offers an interesting approach to introducing choices, descriptions of events and their interpretations: the various parts of Gremmy’s body are alive and have their own, conflicting ideas and opinions; the child decides which one to listen to.

The pawsies wanted to go around the bag, the eyesies wanted to look inside and the tail prepared to run.

I can’t say much about the story, because The Big Adventure of the Little Gremlin has more plot and structural branches than any other gamebook, so I’d rather define it as a collection of individual fairy tales. Gremmy’s path branches several times in the beginning, and depending on his choices, he encounters vastly different situations and fantastic creatures. Effectively, the plot is different on each replay, which also results in a relatively great number of endings: about twenty, each independent of the rest and offering its own moral.

And so the gremlin learned that you can lose your boat, but you may find friends instead; and that you can always build a better boat, especially with help from your friends.

And the gremlin learned that not everything foreigners do was good for him. And that whenever you see someone, you shouldn’t do exactly like them.

The Game

As I already said, the game is extremely non-linear, offering great opportunities for replay. It may well keep you interested for twenty readings or more, and considering children’s love for repeating and dwelling on every detail, I assume this number will increase manyfold for the young ones.

Structure-wise, the first choices are more or less random branches, followed by situations where the child has to decide on the basis of moral values or personal preferences, rather than logic. Every reading consists of five to six sections, half a page each, so the total length is similar to an ordinary fairy tale (between twenty and thirty minutes) and will keep the child from getting tired.

Naturally, the endings are not divided into good or bad. They are merely different, aiming to instruct and delight. I doubt any child would embrace an ending where Gremmy has to stay hungry or gets gobbled up by a dragon; the book amply demonstrates that the author is well-versed in child psychology.

I was also pleasantly impressed by the inclusion of another device at the end of The Big Adventure, common for practice books for this age: ideas for enriching the reader’s experience by adding extra game elements. Here are two examples:

General guidelines the author wrote down at the book’s prompting and translated into Adult:

3. Tell the child he or she has to pack important things for the adventure in his or her favorite bag. Let the child choose whatever he or she wishes. If possible, use some of the child’s items in the story.


The Enchanted Forest:
1. If the gremlin goes after the bag, play a game of tag.


The Design

The Big Adventure has a fabulous design. It comes with a hard cover, solid large-format glossy pages, dozens of full-color illustrations (every other page is an illustration). The deluxe quality completely justifies the price, which is actually low, considering the cost of such a product.

A minor shortcoming is the small font size. Although this may give a headache to a loving granny, I’d rather get more text for my money than a larger font.

Some adult readers will likely notice that the illustrations are stylistically eclectic, drawn by different artists. That won’t matter to the young ones, though: what counts is that each of the pictures is pretty, colorful, and full of interesting stuff.
In conclusion

I don’t think it will be exaggerated to call this book a historical event for our “genre,” creating an entire new “sub-genre” (I use “genre” as the accepted term, even though gamebooks are rather a literary and game “form”). I believe The Big Adventure will make kids squeal with delight, because its writing is as brilliant as its design. Such books stimulate children’s imagination and creativity, so I heartily recommend it to you. I eagerly awaited its release for several months after I’d first read it, and I immediately ordered a copy for each of my nephews, already before the premiere. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Gremmy and hope he won’t remain an exception but become a stepping stone for this fascinating and instructive sub-genre.

You can browse and read the gametale any time, completely gratis, at the website of The Big Adventures of the Little Gremlin, if you cannot afford it or are not yet sure that it’s an exceptional gift for every child. There, you’ll also find extra chapters, adventures, etc. I believe the author deserves our support so that he can keep exhilarating us with his GameTales. If you share my opinion, you can order the book from the website.

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