"Excellent Ernesto Cousins 3/Wrestlevania: A Play-Your-Way Book (Midnight Arcade)" Book Review
Written by John Colianni
Published by Penguin Workshop
Written by Gabe Soria, Illustrated by Kendall Hale
2018, 288 pages, Fiction
September 4, 2018
I was fortunate to spend numerous summers throughout my childhood on beaches in New Jersey, enjoying reprieve from the season’s hotness. Aside from the sand and the waves, my friends and I would frequent water parks, mini golf and, of course, arcades. A pocket full of quarters provided us all the love of video games that our parents wouldn’t allow us to bring on vacation. From classics to new light gun shooters, hours were spent button mashing and ticket collecting until we were beckoned back to our families. Gabe Soria has created a way to relive those moments and pick unique paths in an arcade world where you choose your own paths and navigate the Midnight Arcade.
Excellent Ernesto Cousins 3/Wrestlevania: A Play-Your-Way Book begins much like the vacation I previously described, except this time the story’s protagonist finds an abandoned arcade with dilapidated cabinets. Once inside this seemingly deserted house of entertainment, a ghostly figure appears, the lights turn on and you’re given a token and a choice to play one of two games: Excellent Ernesto Cousins 3 or Wrestlevania. With each having its own distinct play mechanics and decisions to make, flipping pages has never felt so good.
Accompanied by the artwork of Kendall Hale, Gabe Soria manages to capture the perfect sense of adventure and choice from his previous installment of Midnight Arcade, Crypt Quest/Space Battles. The player can jump into the world that is a spinoff of Super Mario Brothers or another that reminds me of Castlevania meets the WWE. Instead of the typical “one or the other” decision process of most choose your own adventure books, the reader controls a joystick and two buttons that allow jumping, punching and omnidirectional movement that emulates an actual arcade cabinet.
With the two adventures that the Midnight Arcade has to offer, navigating your own peril will keep you coming back for more. Excellent Ernesto Cousins 3: Third Cousins emulates being in the world of Super Mario Bros., with creatures and jumping one would expect to encounter. Wrestlevania offers a completely different experience lovers of the classic Castlevania would find all too familiar, albeit with a professional wrestler twist. While both journeys are enjoyable, my affinity for monsters and haunted masked Luchadores had me flipping pages much more intensely.
Putting aside plot points and controls, the writing of Midnight Arcade is incredibly accessible. This is an entertaining read for all ages. Whether you want a quick read that is sure to provide twists and turns or provide a bedtime story for a curious kid, wrestling monsters and wandering through sewer pipes never loses its allure. I hope that Gabe Soria continues this series with fresh stories and plenty of endings because this latest installment has been nothing short of a blast.
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