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The Uncanny X-Men: An X-cellent Death

(American cover)
(British cover)
Series: Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (American) #6
Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Gamebooks (British) #7
Translated Into: La patrulla X, Una muerte X-celente (Spanish)
Author: Novak(-Grubb), Kate
Illustrators: Butler, Jeffrey (Jeff) (cover)
Nelson, Mark (interior)
Statema, John (interior)
Release Date: 1987
Length:201 sections (the last section number is 202, but that is due to a misnumbering of sections)
User Summary: You play a troupe of four X-Men (Wolverine, Rogue, Storm and Nightcrawler) investigating a United States government project gone wrong. Along the way you'll have to deal with corrupt government officials, ninja assassins and another mysterious evil agency.
darkatx's Thoughts: This X-Men team outing is a decent effort. It's hard to juggle four team members and make for a logical story but Kate Novak does an admirable job. The Karma mechanic is somewhat different than the other books in this series for balancing purposes. In some cases, it's not even warranted but in others, it may barely be enough.

The cover art is decent but the interior art is a bit off in parts. Again, the inker (Nelson) is heavy handed but does a better job with Statema's pencils making for a more defined look as opposed to his previous effort in Dr. Strange. Still, some pictures are harder to make out with all the heavy line-hatching work. There are some noticeable errors like the pirate sword being handled by Nightcrawler (it's supposed to a katana) or that some of the page references are pointing to the wrong character. One noticeable typo even had a player requiring less than a roll of one for failure!

The storyline flows quite well and there is a critical juncture where the path splits in two. One path is extremely simple and merely a series of dice rolls. The other storyline is emotionally deeper and far more complex. It almost appears that the simpler path was more of an afterthought. The challenging path is much more fun in every way and it makes for a completely different read.

All in all, this a solid book with some nice twists and worth your while. Not overly challenging (as long as you don't hoard your Karma) yet, definitely worth another go in order to enjoy all the different endings.

More reviews by darkatx

Fireguard's Thoughts: An X-Cellent Death is quite an ambitious undertaking, although it could've been better. The main thing setting it apart from fellow Marvel Super Heroes books is that the reader doesn't control just one character, they control four of the X-Men (Wolverine of course, Storm, Nightcrawler and Rogue) in different sections, generally depending on whose powers are handiest at the time. If you need strength, for example, the narration switches to Rogue. To detect an ambush, Wolverine.

It's an interesting idea, and although I might have picked the team a little differently, I applaud it for breaking new ground in superhero game books. However, as I said, it could have been done better. Annoyingly, early on the player is asked if they want to investigate a plume of smoke and a feeling of unease on Wolverine's part. Would we have opened the book in the first place if the answer was no?

Also, the characterization of the heroes tends to be blunt, as if the author was given only the barest information on the X-Men with one important thing to mention about each of them. On the other hand, the supporting characters are a fairly interesting bunch and I found their interaction with the X-Men more gripping than fighting the book's menaces. However, that doesn't save the adventure from being somewhat bare bones -- less so than City in Darkness, certainly, but not having the flavor one would expect of an epic X-Men adventure.

It bears mentioning that the illustrations are strange in a few places; it looks like Nightcrawler has stolen a swashbuckler's sword from a ninja in section 151, and if you know anything about her powers I'm sure you'll agree Rogue's outfit looks dangerously brief in section 119. It's not a mistake, but I personally always hated Storm with a mohawk.

An X-Cellent Death doesn't live up to its potential, but all in all is one of the better books in the series. If you can't find Guilt by Association, I'd recommend this one next. 7/10

More reviews by Fireguard

Guillermo's Thoughts: While not as good as books four and five in this series, Kate Novak has managed nonetheless to produce a book which is far better than her previous entry, Rocket's Red Glare. One of this book's good features is the ability to control not one character, but a team of four, and this is done in such an original way it really deserves mention. The way multiple characters are handled here is very different from those found in other series. For instance, it doesn't all come down to having the stats for several characters but only being able to see the story develop from the main character's point of view, as in several AD&D Adventure Gamebooks. There are also no character-neutral sections like in Blood Sword. Instead, every section has a header that indicates which character's point of view will be described in the corresponding section, and the player switches characters only when the book indicates it. This works in a similar way to the literary technique known as "stream-of-consciousness," giving the reader some psychological insight into each character and thus helping the book feel more like a story about real people and less like one about power-wielding automatons. Furthermore, by concentrating on just one character at a time, the player is sometimes forced to make choices without knowing if the course of action taken will be safe for the other characters or how they will react to the current character's decisions.

Besides its originality, the book provides a suspense-filled and complex storyline, and will perhaps be better appreciated by Marvel Comics fans, since its continuity appears to be in keeping with key events from the comic books of that era. Gameplay is also above average. Choices are often tough enough to keep the player on his / her toes, and a good deal of good luck with the die – and perhaps strategic use of Karma as well – is needed.

Although the basic plot remains the same no matter which way you take, in order to reveal all the plot's nooks and cranies you'll have to find two main paths through the book. The two paths branch apart at the point when a crucial choice is made early on in the adventure, and you can only travel down one of them in each game. I have no problem with this, as it adds replay value to the book, but it may displease people who believe that every gamebook must include some way to reveal all its secrets in a single trek through. My only real problem with the book, however, is that one of the paths includes only die rolls and almost no choices, thus making the book feel much less interactive along that particular path. Considering the other path has enough choices, one can't help but wonder whether this is due to the book being rushed or shrunk down in size in order to comply with publishing requirements.

Overall, this is very much worth your while both to see the way multiple characters are handled and as a gamebook in its own right.

More reviews by Guillermo

Special Thanks:Thanks to Fireguard for the British cover scan and to Guillermo Paredes for the plot summary and section count.
Users Who Own This Item: Ardennes (US), B0N0V0X, bigcobra, bookwormjeff, crazydave, darkatx, dArtagnan, dave2002a, Dirk Omnivore, domj29, edwebb (#7 UK), firefoxpdm, Fireguard (British edition), Gibraltar, hoops4ever, katzcollection, killagarilla, kinderstef, knginatl (US), le maudit, mlvoss, mrwalker, NEMO (US), nerelax, Pseudo_Intellectual, Ryuran333, Sabreman (UK), Sir Olli, sireeyore, Yalius, Zolika
Users Who Want This Item: Braldt, Egghead Nurse, Gartax, jeremydouglass, Malthus Dire, NEMO (UK), odo_ital, Uraniborg (UK)

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