Monday, January 17, 2011

Nintendo Adventure Books 6: Doors to Doom

Bill McCay began his foray as a writer of Nintendo Adventure Books by writing easily the worst book in the first half of the series, then followed it up with one that was somewhat better. Both trying rather hard to emulate the feel of the videogames. This time McCay was again paying a lot of attention to the finer workings of the games when he came up with a book, but managed to remember he was writing a book.

Luigi wakes up in the middle of the night and finds Mario about to sleepwalk into a warp pipe that wasn’t there when the brothers went to bed. Ending up on the other side anyway, they find themselves guests of Dr. Fungenstein, a Goomba mad scientist who’s invented a machine that can create warps to and from anywhere he wants. Like into the worlds of some of their earliest game appearances.

Like the abominable Monster Mix-Up, the book is made up of a series of short paths where the player usually receives a small appoint of points (points, no coins this time). This can be kind of annoying, and there are several puzzles in the book that just don’t make sense. One such puzzle involves turning a pair of screws one of three different ways, but all it’s really asking is which of three fancifully-named exits the reader chooses. Another one is to find the thing that doesn’t match in a mirror-image puzzle. Which is only included for the heck of it, no clues toward the correct decision or anything. One has the reader playing a simplified version of chess against themselves, and seeing how many moves it takes to get the exit. Huh? And it’s probably not the author’s fault, but the puzzles on pages 91 and 99 were switched around.

As well, Doors to Doom takes the ranking system of the other books and has a series of different endings depending on how high a rank the player achieved. Thing is it’s impossible to reach the highest rank without making the wrong decision at a particular point and having to double back and go over some sections you’ve probably already read, earning the points from those sections again.

None of these problems are quite the same as the ones arising from trying too hard to duplicate playing an old videogame, you may have noticed. And reading about the Bros. making their way through Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. (the description of his scream was a great bit of color) and SMB 2, is actually quite fun. The worlds are (for a book that couldn’t go over 120 pages) quite vibrant and well-written, and without feeling like it’s a videogame so much that the act of reading becomes bogged down. Especially SMB 2, as Fungenstein has persuaded Wart to mellow out and turn his army of monsters into surfers. And for some reason he wants to trade a garage door opener to the Bros. for one of their hats, forcing them into a debate over whose head is closer to Wart’s size. It also certainly helps that there’s an explanation for being in one place on one page and somewhere completely different on the next.

It was surprising to see an author start off so awful and rise to a much higher level on a writing if not mechanics standpoint by the time he wrote his final piece for the series. And choosing to base the book around some of Mario’s more retro appearances has helped the book’s appeal grow over the years as they become even more retro. Check this one out.

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