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Item - Metal City Mayhem

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Series: Sonic the Hedgehog Adventure Gamebooks — no. 1
Author: Wallis, James
Illustrators: Russell, Chris (full-page art)
Rawling, Keith (filler art)
Date: 1993
ISBN: 0140903917 / 9780140903911
Length: 300 sections
Number of Endings: 7 (not including defeat by loss of lives)
User Summary: Sonic gets distracted by a tough Game Gear game, and while he's not looking, all of his friends are kidnapped. This is particularly frustrating because he really wants to consult with one of his buddies on how to beat the final boss.
Demian's Thoughts:

I'm a big fan of James Wallis thanks to his brilliant Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen competitive role-playing game; thus, I was eager to try this book, even though the Sonic the Hedgehog theme kind of frightened me. As it turns out, the book is a mix of wonderful and not-so-wonderful elements. First, the good: despite seeming like it was going to be condescending and cheesy at first, the writing turned out to be pretty decent. It's written in third-person, present tense, but the "third wall" is frequently broken, with Sonic talking back to the reader from time to time. There's also a fairly funny running gag in the conversation options when Sonic encounters other characters. Because of its somewhat irreverent, self-referential attitude, the book actually reminded me of the Tiny Toon Adventures TV series, which was just about its contemporary. Other positives are the game system, which is simple but effective, and the successful integration of video game elements and overall logic into the text (mentions of background music, a bonus stage for high scorers at the end, and so forth). The book does have problems, however. The art is less than inspiring (Sonic's tone demands bright colors, and black and white line drawings just look flat), the mission is very linear (though not frustratingly so), and there are a number of points where rules issues become confusing. The book tends to make you loop back a lot (after dying, mostly, but also after making some non-fatal mistakes), yet it doesn't really address what happens to items that were picked up and enemies that were defeated -- I was frequently unsure whether I should erase items from my inventory or whether it was necessary to fight the same old foes again. This seriously detracted from my gameplay experience, as I didn't feel quite satisfied when I finally won -- the uncertainty of whether or not I had accidentally cheated after losing lives and otherwise being sent back prevented me from feeling proud of my efforts. Still, despite its problems, this is a solid gamebook, and better than you might expect from the subject matter. It's worth a look.

My High Score - 56 rings

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KenJenningsJeopardy74's Thoughts:

There's a lot of possibility in the idea of a Sonic the Hedgehog gamebook featuring three hundred story sections and a full game system, and Metal City Mayhem kicks off this six-book series with flair to spare in an adventure containing numerous original stages for Sonic to survive. On page one, Sonic is relaxing in the Green Hill Zone playing Botman on his Sega Game Gear. He's a slick gamer, but the Technobot at the end of Level Six stymies him every time. A more urgent matter is about to arise, however. Something is going on within a walled city called Robotropolis; armed robots are abducting Sonic's animal friends and taking them there. Sonic feels certain Dr. Robotnik is behind it, but how can he thwart the madman's plot without every robot in the city ganging up on him?

However stealthy Sonic is under your guidance, getting caught by Robotnik's metal minions at least a few times is practically unavoidable. So it's good that you can run into Boombox, a rat who has dug tunnels all through Robotropolis, including the holding cells. Between jailings you'll want to carefully examine every room you enter: gold rings (your health meter in this book), extra lives, and other valuable items are waiting to be retrieved and added to your inventory. Gameplay is not easy, so you need every advantage the story allows.

Exploring Robotropolis should put you in proximity to Robotnik's plans, one piece at a time. Tails the fox is a useful ally, as are several other friends from the Green Hill Zone eager to help you stop your conniving enemy in his tracks. Robotnik's robots are controlled by cartridges that bear punny names (Eggs-terminate and Pter-egg-dactyl, for example), cartridges you can steal and reinsert later to override the doctor's orders and force the robots to behave as you want. You have time for several mini adventures en route to discovering Robotnik's evil goal, but make sure you have an extra life or two in reserve when you meet the big man in the final battle. Robotnik is eccentric but deadly, and his sights are set on destroying Sonic's beloved home. Only Sonic can save the Green Hill Zone once again and keep his friends free from egg-themed tyranny.

Despite serious structural flaws, Metal City Mayhem had loads of potential, and James Wallis is a good writer. The adventure builds well and is enjoyable for long periods, tempered by the randomness of the results of the choices you make. It's frustrating to blunder about, getting hurt and losing lives, when you're trying to make smart decisions and preserve Sonic for the duration. James Wallis's wit does a decent job countering this feeling, though; my favorite part of the book is Sonic's veiled Super Mario Brothers quip on page two hundred fifty-one. Metal City Mayhem is a long, involved read if you make it to the end and defeat Robotnik, but it will be fun for the right kind of reader. I'm curious how the series developed from here.

More reviews by KenJenningsJeopardy74

Errata:The "Cool Looks" attribute on the character sheet should actually read "Good Looks."
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