Escape from Zombie Planet
A One Way Out Novel
Reviewed by Anthony Servante
There were two things I remembered about the 80s when I read Escape from Zombie Planet: one, the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and two, Dragon Lair, the video game. In the books, you read along until you reached a crossroads of sorts, a choice between multiple paths the hero of the adventure could take. Each path led to a different plotline; only the hero and setting remained the same. In the video game, Dirk the Daring (our hero) was an animated cartoon with breaks in the action where the video gamer got to choose which direction Dirk would go by moving the joystick either east, north, west or south, thus triggering the animation that corresponded to the path that was chosen. Zombie Planet updates this plot device.
In Zombie Planet, YOU are the hero. You choose between two possible actions with the goal: Escape, alive. The premise here is that your planet has been overrun by zombies and there is a spaceship taking off to a safe planet. You have about a day to reach the ship. But as soon as you leave your home fortress, you are faced with your first choice, whether or not to pick up a young stranger who has jumped in front of your vehicle. Right off, let me say, you have a fifty-fifty chance at this point of escaping the zombies and reaching safety. The odds go down as you reach each new pivotal point where you must choose your next action.
Let's get to the heart of the matter, however; this is not a novel. It's not even really a book. It's a game. You win if you choose all the correct actions that lead to escape, that is, you reach the ship and depart alive and kicking. Remember, for each direction that is chosen, the story changes.
The written narrative is appropriate for the premise of the game. You don't need Shakespeare to make a choice. But there is one thing I liked very much about this book: There is one possible trail you can create with your choices where you actually get a perfect little short story (and it's not the one way out version where you win). But unless you are lucky enough to find it upon your first try, you'll have to return to those pivotal points over and over and make different choices until you either win the game or find that story gem that I was lucky enough to find on the second reading. Have fun.