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Item - Zone Rangers

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

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