Monday, January 17, 2011

Nintendo Adventure Books 11: Unjust Desserts

Back to the Mario Bros., are we? I’d say this indicates Wayne didn’t know what else to do with Link and Zelda, but the next two books show he didn’t know what else to do with Mario and Luigi either.

The good guys of the Mario-verse are celebrating Yoshi’s first birthday when he eats a weird purple cherry and goes crazy swallowing everything in sight. Including Luigi. If Mario ever wants to see his brother again, he needs to shrink and go down Yoshi’s gullet to find him.

So the premise is a birthday gone bad, rather like Pipe Down! Except it’s combined with that stock plot every cartoon of the 80’s seemed to use when it was running low on ideas, having the characters shrink. Not to mention like Pipe Down!, it has mistakes on its scorecard in that among the items, there’s a cape feather instead of a Starman (Mario fans already wondering why you’d need the feather when another of the items is the Tanooki suit, which both let you fly).

The game elements are implemented awkwardly overall, firstly because the book combines the coin system from the early books with the basic points of Doors to Doom and the Zelda books. Just pick one scoring system and stick with it. At least within one book.

While we’re on the subject of points, the player sometimes loses them based on some pretty silly randomly-determined puzzles. Like the first one is whether Mario should let the crazed Yoshi take a bite of his birthday cake or not, but the accompanying puzzle doesn’t give a clue to the right answer. You pick a noodle and you’re supposed to do whatever it says when you get to the end. Pick the wrong random noodle, and you’re out five coins. That’ll show you. Another such puzzle has Mario jumping over a field on the backs of different bugs, gaining or losing points with each jump. If you don’t score a certain number of points, he goes the wrong way and you’re punished by losing even more. I’ve got nothing wrong with interactive books punishing bad decisions, but at least make them decisions.

Moving on, why are Yoshi’s insides full of pipes and valves? Why are there little talking dolphins swimming around in his stomach? In all fairness, I might not be asking if I played an actual SMB game where a few levels were spent running around inside the dinosaur’s guts, but it feels weird for something trying (but not very hard) to extend beyond the boundaries of the games. Maybe Wayne wanted there to be at least one book in the series where Mario actually gets to put his oft-lauded plumbing skills to use, as there are points where he’ll get stuck if he hasn’t got a plunger or wrench to remove an obstacle.

On top of this, the writing’s boring and has an almost comical amount of comparisons to how big regular food items seem to Mario. Yes, Mario’s tiny. He’d have to be to be having adventures in Yoshi’s guts. I never needed to be reminded of that when I was ten and learning to cope with ADD, but thanks away. Also, the princess calls in Doc Drake, a giant duck who’s an expert on dinosaur digestive issues and plumber shrinking to help find a solution to Yoshi’s problem. A giant duck doctor somehow seemed radically out of place even in a Mario book.

The unjust desserts are the ones you get for paying money for the privilege of reading such a boring, confusing, badly-designed book.

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