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Item - Zone Rangers

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Series: Sonic the Hedgehog Adventure Gamebooks — no. 2
Author: Wallis, James
Illustrator: Arkadia
Date: 1993
ISBN: 0140903925 / 9780140903928
Length: 300 sections
Number of Endings: 22 (including one ending which directs the reader to section 1 instead of saying "Game Over," but not including defeat by loss of lives)
User Summary: Sonic and Tails are napping when they are suddenly interrupted by a bulldozer tearing up the countryside. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Robotnik isn't far behind.
Demian's Thoughts:

After the second or third attempt at this book, I was preparing to declare it the most brilliant thing I'd read in ages. It has the same sense of humor as the previous book, but it's even more successful. There are quite a few laugh-out-loud moments, and also some amusing (if a bit predictable) references to things like Alien and The Prisoner (Doctor Who fans must also be sure to examine the artwork carefully). The book also has a very interesting structure, jumping between the separate adventures of Sonic and Tails in order to build suspense -- it's very effective, and I was pleasantly surprised by the pacing. Unfortunately, further readings revealed significant flaws which prevent me from wholeheartedly recommending the book (though I still recommend it with 90% of my heart). First of all, the game design, for all its cleverness (or perhaps because of all its cleverness) is fairly linear and episodic; this wouldn't be a bad thing in and of itself, but it means that once you figure out the optimal paths through early segments of the adventure, getting defeated near the end gets increasingly annoying since it requires tedious replay through familiar territory. Each death feels more frustrating than the one before it, and it gets harder and harder to look at the bright side and view defeat as an opportunity to try new things. Of course, you could always cheat to avoid this problem, but as a matter of principle I don't like to do that. Also, the book could have used a bit more proofreading and playtesting, as it has a lot of continuity problems. None seem to be fatal to the gameplay, but they are distracting. At one point, for example, if you have a key, you have to sneak past some guards in order to use it. If you fail the sneak roll, you're sent to a combat section, where you're told that you attack the guards because you don't have a key. Similarly, later in the adventure, if you use a rope to reach a high perch, the book acts as if you got there with a see-saw catapult. Reusing segments to save space is a good thing, but it should have been done with more caution here. In any case, if you don't take the game system too seriously and can deal with a few slightly confusing errors, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Despite its problems, it's an amusing read, affectionately poking fun at both Sonic the Hedgehog and gamebooks in general.

My High Score - 838 points

More reviews by Demian

flyingbolt's Thoughts:

This gamebook is a fascinating little time capsule for Sonic fans, as it shows just how little they had to go in order to make a full narrative. Remember, this was back when the only Sonic games (aside from Japan-only games like Waku Waku Sonic Patrol Car or Sonic Eraser) were Sonic 1 and 2, with CD and 3 coming out a little later. Think about it; nowadays the Sonic franchise is best known for having way too many characters, but back then it was literally just Sonic, Tails and Robotnik. Nobody could even agree what the Chaos Emeralds were - here, they're presented as these eldritch abominations, corrupting all that they touch. From a modern perspective, it's all rather bizarre.

Oh right, the gamebook itself. The art is good (if not spectacular) and the prose is well-written, giving the reader a good sense of atmosphere in each location as they travel around Mobius, and you can tell James Wallis was enjoying himself when he wrote this, slipping in references that would zoom over the heads of the target audience (let's be honest - how many 8-year olds would get a reference to The Prisoner?) but still work in the story. The gamebook system is also interesting and straightforward, as it gives players some potential for different stat builds for Sonic and Tails... until you play through it a few times, and figure out the best way to game the system so you can steamroll through combat/skill checks. As Demian pointed out in his review, it can be quite tempting to cheat, due to the linearity of how this gamebook is structured, especially if you get bored with the plethora of bad endings.

However, if you do persevere, then the ending is genuinely worth reaching, and satisfying in its tone. I'd even be tempted to describe it as "cosy"... it's certainly clear that Wallis had fun writing it, and it's hard to humbug him when the result is so rewarding to read.

Overall, I'd give Zone Rangers an A-. Some more proofreading would've been nice, but overall it's a very enjoyable work indeed.

More reviews by flyingbolt

Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 4/10]
[Recommended? NO]

"Zone Rangers" builds on the previous title with a refreshingly innovative conceptual approach to the gamebook experience, standing out as the clear highlight of the "Sonic the Hedgehog Adventure Gamebooks" with its flashy, fun writing, coupling neatly with the highly intelligent, innovative interactivity and pacing mechanisms. The seamless, almost effortless switches between Sonic and Tails make for an outstanding, compelling and excitingly fresh narrative experience (one which is more forgiving earlier on, to boot) - though the length of the adventure feels a little drawn out all the while. The interior illustrations are another weakness, and unfortunately the creative touches only sweeten the experience so much (still to do with the attributions a little). Cheeky and humor-filled though it may be, I don't ultimately recommend the book except as definitely the strongest of the series - but I certainly believe the thoughtful, multi-faceted gameplay will pleasingly surprise and impress many readers who decide to give this and the previous title a chance, especially considering the successfully-pulled-off dual protagonist factor. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

Users Who Own This Item: Alatar001, Arkadia, B0N0V0X, brujeria!, damieng, dArtagnan, dave2002a, domj29, Eamonn McCusker, Ed, egokun, Erikwinslow, evilspoon, flyingbolt, Gamebook, jdreller, Joe_TC, katzcollection, kinderstef, Malthus Dire, mlvoss, Nich, Sheridan77, sireeyore, tonk82, waktool (UK 8th)
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