Monday, January 17, 2011

Nintendo Adventure Books 8: Flown the Koopa

Here we meet Matt Wayne, the author who’ll be guiding us through the rest of the Nintendo Adventure Books odyssey.

The Mario Bros. and their pals are on their way to Dinosaur Island to enter Yoshi in the International Dino Flying Derby, but when they get there strange goings on seem afoot…

Wayne hits the ground stumbling, as the very first puzzle in the book seems somehow incomplete. There are three possibilities and depending on which one the player thinks is right they’re advised to not choose a certain item. There’s no list of what the options are or anything, it’s just “if it’s C don’t take the flashlight,” etc.

Certainly this weak start isn’t helped in that it doesn’t take all that long to realize that the impetus of the adventure is the same as the book before it: the island’s dinosaurs and the Mario Bros.’ friends have mysteriously vanished, prompting them to investigate. For what it’s worth, it’s kind of surprising that Yoshi, the brand new addition to the Mario cast, is among the missing.

On the other hand that’s the main difference between Flown the Koopa and Dinosaur Dilemma: despite vastly similar calls to adventure and hawking the same new title, Flown the Koopa doesn’t feel nearly so much like a commercial plug. The plans the Marios come up with are slightly more imaginative than before as are the threats they face. As the main antagonist of the book is Magikoopa, an evil wizard, that’s really as it should be. And it’s kind of cool that the power-up vital to winning isn’t the one from the brand new game, but the one that’d been around for a while and had been nerfed somewhat at that point in the franchise’s history (you’re welcome).

The imagination shows itself in a different way, too. This is the first book in this series I remember reading and actually not minding when I died because the death scenes were actually kind of fun in and of themselves. That’s harder to do in these books than you might think, or perhaps a lot of writers didn’t think it was something that should be fun. This does mean, however, that the book isn’t very forgiving if you mess up like earlier ones in the series. Although unlike earlier books, the places where you do get second chances are closer to the end than the beginning.

If nothing else Flown the Koopa has a running gag that culminates in the best bit of writing in anything Mario-related, ever:

Luigi barely manages to dive out of the way. He lands sideways on the library’s tile floor with a loud crunch.

“My cookies!” the plumber screams. “You made me crush my cookies!” His eyes narrow to two furious slits. “Now it’s personal,” he says in a menacing whisper.

Sorry, think I was suddenly ten again there for a second.

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