Monday, January 17, 2011

Nintendo Adventure Books 4: Koopa Capers

Here again we visit the work of Bill McCay, who wrote one of the worst Nintendo Adventure Books by trying a little too hard to make his book like the Mario games (at least, that’s what it felt like). Here he tries the same approach again, with, well, better results.

Luigi’s interrupted while working the bugs out of a new pasta-maker when a magic carpet shows up on his doorstep that whisks him to Bowser Koopa’s castle. Rather than wanting to chew him to little pieces, though, Bowser asks for help in finding his daughter, Wendy O. Koopa, who’s gone missing. While still having to fight the entire Koopa army because it would be bad for Bowser’s image if anyone knew they were working together.

So again, McCay tries to write a book that’s basically a Mario game with the occasional amusing one-liner thrown in. Some of the puzzles involve things like deciding if Luigi can make a jump or if he should wait, and exploring Bowser’s castle in search of Wendy O. does feel a lot like doing so in one of the games.

Koopa Capers is saved from the monotony of Monster Mix-Up, thankfully, by letting you feel like you’re actually doing something besides just running around until you get to the end of the book. You have a goal beyond “stop the bad guys,” furthermore an open-ended one as you have no idea where Wendy O. could be or why she’s gone missing, which makes the exploring feel more meaningful.

For that matter, McCay expanded the role of inventory in this book, meaning you also need to go exploring to find items to survive the castle and get to the bottom of the mystery. In an open-ended adventure, finding a lot of stuff usually means you’re getting farther along in the quest, which helps you feel like you’re doing well. This is a lesson McCay didn’t work into Monster Mix-Up, which had two whole items to find, one of which killed Mario if he tried to use it.

Also, the book doesn’t ask you to keep up with a constant flow of piffling amounts of coins, helping not to break the flow so much.

None of this is to say Koopa Capers is any great writing achievement, though. Just that if McCay tried to scrupulously recreate the games while remembering to write an adventure book, he was capable of producing something readable. Not great, but readable.

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