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June 19, 2011 / jwaxo

Goosebumps: Escape from HorrorLand (Giving Up / Father’s Day)

More frightening than anything you’ve ever seen before.

And that is officially the longest post title I’ve ever come up with. It has everything! A colon. A subtitle. Parentheses. A slash. All we need is a dash and maybe another colon and we’d be up to a Metal Gear Solid spinoff or something like that.

[Pause for laughter and a little bit of slap-bass]

The reason for all of that, though, is because there are three things that this post goes over, and one of them has a colon inherent in its name. First of all, it is Father’s Day. Quickly, pretend you never forgot, call up your dad, and act as if that email your mom sent you to remind you to call your dad never made it to your inbox. So, for Father’s Day, I thought I would celebrate and share with you a very important skill that my dad imparted on me: the ability to realize that it is time to throw in the towel, and to do so.

No, this isn’t some ironically-tones, sarcasm-riddled post or anything like that. This is a serious skill that needs to be taught to kids. Despite what they tell you, no, you may not start a video game company, you probably will not become the MVP on a major-league baseball team, and, try as you might, you may never, ever, ever get Goosebumps: Escape from HorrorLand working on your computer. In fact, that last one is probably the least probable of the three.

Around my house, my dad was the first person you’d go to if you couldn’t get something working. It could be anything: can’t get a LEGO model together right? Dad would jump right in, enthusiastically. Movie not playing and mom can’t find out why? Dad would know. Heck, I even had a kite string that had magically turned into a gigantic knot and Dad managed to get that thing to turn into a beautiful straight line.

And no, this did not happen.

Several times previously I’ve told you stories about Dad getting games working, or at least quickly cutting to the symptoms and advising me of a course of action. But with Escape from HorrorLand, we encountered a problem no one could ever solve, and we still haven’t to this day, although that’s possibly due to giving up for over a decade.

Goosebumps. Here’s the lowdown, in case you never got into them or have forgotten and need to feel a wave of nostalgia: in elementary and middle school, RL Stine was the Stephen King of the schoolyard. Pumping out these scary stories that would have Twilight Zone-y twists that would make M. Night Shyamalan proud, they would filter throughout the schools, their stories of face-changing masks and ghosts next door and father-consuming plants becoming ingrained on our brains. There were numerous spin-offs, including several choose-your-own-adventure books, a TV series that was about the same quality of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, and merchandising out the wazoo. Goosebumps was serious business, and though its brand of horror was probably laughable, it was best read under the covers with a flashlight or not at all.

The HorrorLand books were about an evil theme park that a lovingly naive family stops at while on a road trip. After a series of encounters with spooky rides and sideshows, the family escapes with their sanity more-or-less intact. Or do they? It always was a really cool book because, well, who doesn’t love amusement parks? As a family that lived in southern Idaho, we didn’t go to them that many, which tended to leave us kids wishing for roller coasters and fun rides. So when a video game version was announced, it sounded like the coolest idea ever! And sure, it would be scary, but heck, we’d dealt with that before.

This post is quickly turning into my most heavily self-advertising post ever. But hey, the links are here for your convenience.

So when the elementary school, which my mom often volunteered at, was cleaning out its closets and discovered a copy of Escape from HorrorLand, all of us were very excited.

At least my brother and I were. The map that came with it was awesome!

But, when it came time to install the game and play it, we encountered a problem. The opening cinematic worked great (after a bit of tweaking), introducing us to a poor, sad family that had just come into the ownership of several mysterious tickets to the eponymous HorrorLand. They arrived at the park and were promptly split up. Control was given over to the players (represented, as was tradition at this point, by a floating hand), and placed them directly into the false town square of the park. And… and… nothing.

Followed by a blue screen and shut down computer.

Days were spent troubleshooting. The fledgling internet was scoured. Drivers were installed, programs uninstalled and reinstalled over and over again, and the opening was watched over and over and over again. It was seriously a lot of stuff done.

Control was given over to Dad early on, thus assuring us that the deed would be done.

The days passed. Weeks. Months. The game would be forgotten, pushed aside, then I would see the manual again and reenlist my dad to help me get the game working.

Finally, after we succeeded in going to a second screen before the bluescreen and were sent back to square one, my dad had to say it.

“Runt,” he said. “Sometimes you have to give up.”

True words, Dad. True words.

What? No, of course this didn’t happen, either. It’s symbolic!

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