Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Play with Me: Goosebumps: Terror in the Graveyard Game

Hello again and welcome back to our regularly scheduled program. I'm back from my short vacation and it's time to remind myself that I actually do need to write something on here from time to time. Thus, I return to you with an article that I tried to get ready back in October for the Horrorfest, but wasn't able to manage due to it involving getting other people to sit with me for a decent amount of time.

It might be because I occasionally wear a skin mask. People are so judgmental.

So yeah, Goosebumps. It's a hit book series that spawned two television shows, some video games, a toyline, and some board games. Yep, board games, remember those? They're still lingering while you're playing your Calls of Ducky and Heylol. Personally, I treasure these moments when I get to sit down with a game that requires construction and a few other people. Of course, that last bit is what held up this article. While prepping for Horrorfest back in July, I actually found myself staring directly at this game, having randomly come across it as I oozed through the recesses of the internet. It was affordable, it was horror themed, and...it was Goosebumps! It seemed like a perfect purchase.

What I bought along with it though...wasn't quite as perfect.
All I needed were my crack team of players. So, once more, I dragged my niece and nephew into the fray with me as we cleaned off the dining room table to explore the glory housed deep inside the plastic covered cardboard box. But, before opening the box, let's talk about the elephant in the room. The elephant in the room that speaks French. Yes, you may indeed have noticed (as we did) that the box has both English and French on it, which is handy for teaching you how to properly say Goosebumps in French.

No, really, I assure you the box isn't actually advertising a chair of any kind.
But wait, there's more! Upon removing the plastic and opening the box a collective wave of dread swept over all three of us. It was the thing all children dread when opening a toy. Some assembly was, indeed, required.

Did I say "some"? I meant to say "a lot".
It fell upon me to take on the task of constructing this beast, but the others decided to help too. It was a truly daunting task that involved a lot of cardboard pieces being popped out and folded into one another. It was like papercraft on a large scale. With springs. And a plastic skull. I also hit a few kinks throughout the construction, as I removed a piece I wasn't supposed to and sorta flubbed up the stickers for the dice a bit. But we made it work. Well, we took a break after getting it set up, then we made it work. Seriously, a break was needed after setting up this beast.

Behold, the gauntlet of tears. Destroyer of friendships. Box of cardboard. Embrace the terror.
The basics of the game are this: each of the four potential players takes control of two children that they then guide through the graveyard. The goal? To reach the skull of the Headless Ghost so you can trigger the mechanism that vanquishes it. But, there are dangers along the way. First, there's the fact that landing on a Goosebumps spot allows you to draw a card, which is good...most of the time. And there's the fice themselves. One die contains numbers, so you know how far to move. But the other? It has monster faces on it that coincide with the tombs you see. Whatever monster you get means you have to move the monster tomb. And if someone happens to be too close to the tomb when it moves? Death. Oh yeah, cold hard death. Here you go kids, have fun sending one another to the grave.

You might wanna hurry on past that moving deathtrap there, kid.
There are also spots with skeleton hands that hold you in place, so it the tomb moving shifts all the spots you might find yourself suddenly stuck in skeleton hell. Not to mention the fact that you can't even attempt to fight the Headless Ghost without magic ring cards, which you can only get randomly by drawing Goosebumps cards. It's pretty complicated. The game is honestly sort of like Sorry, only with curses and death. That works for me though, because I love Sorry. But there is an additional issue. Let's say you do have a magic ring and make it to the end...you can still get fucked. Why? Because you drop the skull down a shaft that leads one of two ways...and usually goes down the one you don't want it to go down. If you run out of magic rings? It's back out onto the board for you! You better hoard those rings. The interesting part about the characters though is that they are actual character from the books. Seriously, Jerry and Terry from Ghost Beach are playable characters.

Jerry seems to be balding but Terri is really making me uncomfortable, as she's giving the bedroom eyes.
I ended up picking the kids from Monster Blood, mostly because I really liked that book. And if you thought Jerry and Terri were fun to look at, just look at these kids. Look at them.

I wasn't aware that Goosebumps was full of kids staring at one another in strangely sexual ways. I need an adult.
A big part of the fun here though is looking at those French names. Seriously, what? How does one get Christope out of Evan? Or how about Andrea somehow turning into Marie-Odile? Is Andrea a crocodile girl in the French language? I am so confused right now. I feel like understanding some bits of the language might help, but I am sadly not well versed in other languages. I'm barely versed in the language I speak. But, leaving all that behind, we all pick our characters and begin our game. The rules instruct us that the youngest player must go first, so Stephie gets to start us off and we all start our journey across the minefield that is this graveyard that is loosely associated with R.L. Stine. Things start off fairly slow, but soon pick up as she starts getting magic rings. And I mean she really gets them. She ends up with 5 in total, because that's fair. I mean, really, it's all up to chance, so I guess it is fair, but shit. My nephew and I play some cards we got to allow us to steal some of her rings, but even that's not enough to stop her march to victory. Now a tomb, that upsets her a bit.

Not to worry, Andrea too joined her character in the sweet embrace of eternal darkness.
I never was much of a fan of girl-on-girl and it's even worse when both girls happen to be dead. It then descended into pure mayhem at this point, as we all desperately scrambled for the goal. I made it there first, with my three magic rings, ready to end this...but instead I fail three times. Three fucking times. Euuuughghghgjzfamsznbdamytukmffffg.  So, it's back out onto the board. Stephie almost rolled right for the goal, but when we realized she didn't, a bit of drama ensued. It was messy. We were tired and emotionally drained. Nerves were raw. This conflict was tearing us apart. After many curses, she finally made it and the moment hung for what felt like forever. She dropped the skull and...up shot the Headless Ghost into the air like a dangerously sharp Jart ready to fall back to Earth and lodge itself deeply into someone's jugular.

So much death...so much senseless violence...
Thus, we had our winner. She cried out in glee as we all basked in the glow of her pure bliss. There were no angry glares or bitter resentments here. She earned that victory and we all knew that it was best that the game ended before we grew to loathe one another. Who needs Mario Party when you can sow hatred among your loved ones with an actual board game? I told my niece to pose for her victory picture and she happily complied.

You would never have guessed that a short time prior to this she was so full of rage that I feared the results.
The task was done, we could now leave this dark graveyard as a family and return to the living room where we then watched something happy that I will be talking about here very soon. Final verdict? It was a good game. It was a well designed, creative approach to the classic formula that really was fun, when all is said and done. I even played it again with some friends that came over. It provided an experience that one would expect out of a Goosebumps game and the card art...well, yeah. That card art. But, I am not without some gripes regarding this game.

This graveyard does contain some problems besides the grabby skeleton hands & moving death tombs.
My first gripe is the dice, which frankly made me feel silly having to add stickers to them. Couldn't they have done that ahead of time? Because they didn't I actually messed the dice up a bit, so it was an issue. Number two? There is nothing to catch the damn skull when it rolls out of that shaft. We had to find a little cup to catch it so it didn't go flying off the table. It's a minor gripe, but it couldn't have been that hard to fix. Hell, they could given us a cardboard thing to build to catch it. Whatever, it was a good game and I had fun with it. It you dig board games with a spooky theme, look into this one. It was a fun experience and, barring some drama, went off without a hitch. So, until I R.L. Stine writes a book about a guy writing a crappy article about a boardgame that turns out to end in him falling into a pit, I'll be here hoping that I can get him to sign that book. I'd read that book like crazy. Later days, bleeders.

"I'm not writing that book. It sounds stupid."

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