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Choose Your Own Adventure (1979-1998)
Von Moschzisker, Felix
Frenck, Hal (interior)
Best among all CYOA sport titles.
No irrelevent events such as bus accidents, school bullies (Sean) or encounters with gangsters to keep readers distracted. Instead, Playoff Champion only features one single match, and a detailed one in particular. Readers are required to make decisions in almost every plays instead of just the last possession (as in other sport entries).
Even as a non-baseball fan, I enjoyed the smooth flow of the game as well as its challenging but logical choices. Definitely a professional account (or is it?) of baseball, and you don't have to be Alex Rodiguez or whoever to find it interesting.
This book is a true outlier of the CYOA line.
The book covers a single event in great detail. There's no effort to develop characters, beyond a few small things. Your character is effectively a blank slate. There's nothing crazy about this book. It's entirely within reality. There's one path that has some silliness involving pigeons, but even that is played straight.
The writing is good, I guess. I'm not much good at evaluating the quality of baseball writing. I could tell what was happening, for the most part.
I found myself impressed with how much effort must have gone into this book. Mapping out the choices, and how they might affect the game is a laborious task. It's remarkable that the author managed to keep track of how the game unfolds, where each player is, and what happens at any given point.
So it's good... but it's also a very dry book. If you aren't into baseball, there isn't much for you - unless you're a fan of analyzing the whole CYOA line.
There's a lot of good material in this story. Author Felix Von Moschzisker, who makes his one and only entry to the Choose Your Own Adventure series with this book, clearly shows that he has a managerial baseball mind, creating a plot that isn't simply an adventure that happens to slightly involve the sport of baseball (as is the case for some other Choose Your Own Adventure stories that feature a sports theme), but is instead completely dependent on the unique pace and style of our national pastime to deliver a cohesive narrative.
For the most part, the baseball action and strategic decisions that are made by the reader result in reasonably sound pathways. Bad strategy tends to lead to tight games and even losses when your team makes it onto the biggest stage, but sound decision-making will generally lead your team forth toward the path of ultimate victory.
The consideration of strategy and subtleties of the game in the book are not perfect, but the author certainly knows a lot about baseball, and has made a very good attempt at turning an exciting sport into an equally exciting Choose Your Own Adventure story. At its best, Playoff Champion certainly does deliver that, and I'm sure that I will be taking this one off the shelf to read again when the first spring thaw arrives, and the thoughts of a nation once more turn to the boys of summer.
Although "your" baseball coach having a heart attack at the beginning of the big game is rather unlikely, I concur with barryattles' assessment. Playoff Champion is well written, engaging, and stays with one and only one plot and two possible outcomes (winning or losing, and there are several ways to do either). This is an excellent book and a model CYOA.
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