- Designer: Shuky
- Artist: Gorobei
- Publisher: Graphic Novel Adventures
- Release Date: March 2019
Luke: Did you ever play those old Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were a kid? You know, the R.A. Montgomery books that inspired a board game adaptation a couple of years back.
Phil: Of course I did, they came out right around when I was a teenager.
Luke: Oh yeah; sometimes I forget how old you are.
Phil: Basically ancient.
Luke: So I’m sure you loved playing through Crusoe Crew, reminiscent of those youthful days of flipping back and forth through a book until you reached some untimely demise.
Phil: Well, I did and I didn’t.
Luke: Interesting, but not surprising.
Phil: For those of you uninitiated, Crusoe Crew was made by Graphic Novel Adventures, a company that specializes in mystery books that are meant to tease your brain by telling you a story. But what makes this title stand out from the rest is that it includes 4 books, with up to 4 players participating at the same time.
Luke: Up to 2 players in our case.
Phil: Each character has their own gimmick; Gabby’s great at finding riddles, Neta is lanky and nimble, Sarah talks to animals, and Kik breaks $#*!. In this way, each character can find solutions (or pitfalls) to puzzles unique to their book, announcing to the group that they have a thing they can do to help the team. There are even certain puzzles that can only be solved by a specific hero, potentially splitting the party temporarily.
Luke: If I’ve learned anything from Pathfinder-
Phil: You only played once!
Luke: … If I’ve learned anything from Scooby-Doo, it’s to never split the party.
Phil: Fair enough, especially considering it can be a drag on your resources and overall fun when you’re suddenly playing by yourself when you were expecting to hang out with your friend.
The game ends whenever you run out of time, sending you to a somewhat involved scoring chart in which you figure out how well you did based on the player count, difficulty, and how many of each gem you collected.
Luke: Yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan of the high-score style of victory conditions.
Phil: It certainly makes what story there is here feel inconsequential, odd for a company that specializes in their narratives.
Luke: What is undeniable, though, as that the art here is gorgeous!
Phil: Easily my favorite part of the experience. Every page feels like a sweeping Where’s Waldo panel, full of color and whimsy that drew me into the world being shown more so than the world being told.
Luke: Which makes sense for a graphic novel.
Phil: Sure, I just wish the loose narrative mattered more to the experience. Rarely did I need to remember a piece of information for more than a few moments unless it was an ominous “you’ll need this puzzle piece later” kind of thing.
Luke: Which happened a little too often for my taste. It’s cool to find a thing and know that you’ll need it later, but that also means you’re running into puzzles that have no solution unless you came across said items earlier. If this was a story where you needed to find said key to progress to the next area, sure, but with the game being timed, you could run into a bunch of dead ends when first exploring and waste a good portion of your in-game time on things you can’t complete.
Phil: The puzzles are also a bit hit-and-miss for me. Despite being a kid-oriented title, some of the riddles presented here can be rather hard, leaving me scratching my head on occasion.
Luke: That could also just be the game’s poor communication. There were a handful of puzzles where the instructions were so obtuse that I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was being asked of me. I looked up the solution to one such puzzle later and couldn’t understand how I was supposed to come to said solution.
Phil: Having played all the characters, each has their own interesting scenarios to interact with, but I found Kik was often punished for his unique choices rather than rewarded, often smashing or breaking something of importance.
Luke: Which, if you’re playing with a kid, can lead to some bad feels if they feel like they keep messing up.
Phil: Not that you’ll be spending too much time playing; the game only has 2 islands to explore, and you’ll usually have enough time to explore most of an island in a single go.
Luke: So unless you’re hellbent on playing the game with every character, like me, you’ll be done with this title almost as soon as it begins.
Phil: Lastly, a lot of our books ended up falling apart.
Luke: 3 of the 4.
Phil: This seems to be an issue with the overall printing of the series. GNA has provided replacements for those who request it, although I don’t know how much better the newer books have faired with this.
Luke: So, to sum up?
Verdict: Crusoe Crew does some creative things with its exploration of a group Choose Your Own Adventure experience, more than the game based on the originals. Each player having their own things to find is phenomenal and can lead to some funny or interesting moments. This may be a kid-focused game, but you don’t need to be young to appreciate what this game does. That being said, it’s a bit too short, can be frustrating to make your way through, and you might find a pile of loose papers in your hands by the end of it.