Choosing adventures

Not running adventures. Though there are always a few of those going on as well!

Since finishing reading an academic work on text adventure games last week (Twisty Little Passages – I won a signed copy from the author as a prize for winning PunyJam #2 last year), I’ve been drawn towards lighter bedtime reading and have pulled out my old childhood gamebook collection again. I’ve got a few Choose Your Own Adventure books and various other series to revisit (some with dice. I like dice).

There may be a return to Gamebook Wednesday posts soon as a result, but not today.

The ‘back to normal’ creep

Just a quick blog admin note to say that Gamebook Wednesday will be back in October after I have done the London Marathon. I’ve been reading/playing (it’s a sort of hybrid action) lots of gamebooks and really enjoying them, but I don’t have the energy to do the reviews justice at the moment. It’ll be a nice project for the autumn!

Somehow, and in some ways unnoticed, my life seems to have become a lot more ‘back to normal’ recently. On Monday evening Geth and I went for a drink in the pub; yesterday we went into his workplace and packed up his office ready for a forthcoming building move; this afternoon I’m going to the hair salon. There have been many long stretches over the past year and a half where none of that stuff would have been possible or legal, and I got so used to my routine of only ever leaving the house for my daily run that I didn’t think it would be possible to revert to old habits so quickly. This autumn, however, looks almost normal on paper, with trips away and races and gigs and a full-length Strictly series to watch on the TV (so excited!). I don’t think I’ll believe it till after it’s happened, but I am very optimistic for the next few months.

Autumn 2020
An ‘autumn leaves’ picture from last year. I can’t wait to see them again 🙂

Gamebook Wednesday: Asterix: Alea Jacta Est! #1, ‘The Meeting of the Chieftains’

This is another selection from my childhood collection. My brother Malcolm and I absolutely loved Asterix as kids and had tons of the comics, as well as several gamebooks. I didn’t play this one from the Alea Jacta Est! series nearly as often as the more-tactile Asterix Adventure Books we also had (they’ll be replayed soon!), so it was a treat to be able to replay it recently without remembering much about the story.

Asterix: Alea Jacta Est! #1 The Meeting of the Chieftains

In this gamebook you play as Justforkix, a character from the comic book Asterix and the Normans. Justforkix is the nephew of village chief Vitalstatistix and is tasked with the mission of retrieving his uncle from a spa visit so that the latter can return to the village and attend an important meeting with a rival chief. It sounds a bit pedestrian, but in typical Asterix style it’s a fun romp along the roads of ancient Gaul, either avoiding or getting into fights with Romans as per your preferred play style.

The book comes with a play aid sheet for keeping track of scores and inventory (I had to rub out a lot of decades-old pencil marks). You also need a six-sided die, which was fine. I am obsessed with dice and have a special dice bag full of them. Part of this is due to the too-shiny dice displays always catching my eye when I go to the UK Games Expo.

Game aid

Some of the choices in the book are a bit odd (at one point you bump into Asterix and Obelix and they ask if you want them to accompany you; if you’re a fan of the stories, then the natural choice would be to say yes, but in this book it results in a game over as Asterix decides you’re clearly not up to the task if you want them to help!). However, it’s mostly fairly intuitive – you’re rewarded later in the game for gathering information in the village early on, and there’s a fun maze section where you need to find your way out while getting into as few fights with Romans as possible.

Once you’re out of the spa town, it’s a fairly straightforward journey home and a slightly abrupt ending, though it is fairly satisfying story-wise. The game was meaty enough to take me a few evenings to get through, which felt like just the right length.

This is the only one I have in this subseries, but as mentioned above I am really looking forward to replaying my Asterix Adventure Books soon.

Useful link: listing at Demian’s Gamebook Web Page.

Flying Wednesday post

Third flying post in a row ? Gutted as I’m itching to tell you about all the gamebooks I’ve been playing recently! However, Gamebook Wednesday #2 will have to wait till next week. I’m still massively snowed under with work.

Gamebooks
I can’t wait to ramble on about these!

I can at least promise a Phone Box Thursday post tomorrow. I will need a quick break from my final push to get all my day job work done before Friday… however long it takes!

Gamebook Wednesday: Nintendo Adventure Books #1, ‘Double Trouble’

Having been in an interactive fiction place for some time now, I’ve been going back to my old childhood gamebooks for a bit of bedtime reading. They were very well-loved back in the day by me and my brother Malcolm and travelled everywhere with us, but it’s been a long time since I cracked them open. Recently, I thought I’d give them another go and see what they were like from an adult viewpoint.

The first one I pulled off the shelf was the first in the series of Nintendo Adventure Books, Double Trouble.

Double Trouble

In addition to (likely) being in a slightly different gamebook headspace from where I was as a child, I’m also in a slightly different Nintendo headspace. In the ’90s, I knew Mario from my Game Boy, where he was a tiny black and white cluster of pixels jumping high into the air to bash blocks and jump on monsters. I loved Super Mario Land (platformers were my absolute jam from my first bumbling small child attempts at HunchBack on the BBC Micro circa 1988-1989 right through until the end of the ’90s, by which point adventure games had taken over my world), but the monochrome Mario didn’t have much of a personality.

Fast forward to the early ’20s, where I am in the process of transitioning from a wonderful decade spent with my 3DS to the shiny delights of my new Switch Lite. These days, I know Mario through games such as Paper Mario: The Origami King (my gaming highlight of last summer), which are considerably more story-driven than Super Mario Land! As such, I have a much more concrete idea of all the main characters and their places in the Mushroom Kingdom.

This had a pretty big knock-on effect when I flipped open Double Trouble the other week for the first time in decades. In the ’90s, the books in this series were a pleasant expansion of the limited amount I knew about the Mario universe; in the present day, the details are just different enough to jar. Bowser was still King Koopa back in 1991, when this book was published; Princess Peach was Princess Toadstool; her dad was still in the picture; there were a ton of minor characters I haven’t seen mentioned in games for a long time. Still, once I adjusted my worldview back a few decades, there was quite a bit to enjoy.

The story is a fairly daft premise about Bowser King Koopa trying to cause havoc in the Mushroom Kingdom by cloning all the citizens (the actual brains behind the cloning machine is his son Iggy, later retconned as not Bowser’s son and another character you don’t hear about very often these days). The gameplay is a mixture of standard ‘make a choice and turn to page X’ and ‘solve this wordsearch or maze puzzle to find out whether you get to turn to page Y or Z!’ The latter can be frustrating and dull, although thankfully most of the pencil marks that Malcolm and I made back in the day are still intact.

There’s a fairly annoying and slightly lazy mechanic where you get hit on the head a lot, resulting in amnesia, which is meant to be the explanation for why you keep getting sent back to the same passage you’ve already read when you make a wrong but not wrong-enough-for-game-over decision. I wouldn’t mind, but Mario spends his entire life hitting blocks with his head, so you’d think his skull would be tough enough to withstand a few thumps from turtle minions.

You also collect a lot of coins, like you do in the platform games. However, there never seems to be anything you can spend them on – it seems they’re just meant to represent points at the end of the game.

Still, it’s a fun little story that can be finished in twenty minutes or so. I’ve got another couple of the books in the series, so I’ll be coming back to these soon!

Useful link: listing at Demian’s Gamebook Web Page.

Spacing the return

This summer and beyond is starting to come together in terms of ‘gradually poking my nose back out into the outside world’. I’ve got six real races booked for the remainder of the year, with hopefully a seventh to be added when entries open, and it looks like there’s absolutely no problems with them going ahead. The restart of parkrun has been delayed from the 5th to the 26th of June (which selfishly I’m pleased about because it means the first one back doesn’t clash with a race for me), and hopefully they’ll be able to confirm enough events in the interim that the new date will go ahead. I’m excited to get back to group running again!

Geth and I will also be seeing family a few times over the next few months, but we’re adamant that that’s the only thing we’re doing that involves travel (apart from the London Marathon in October, which has been booked for a long time). Travel is very difficult for both of us – I have mental health issues about being out of routine that have become ever more obvious over the last two and a half years since I quit drinking, and Geth’s constant travelling contributed to his seizure and subsequent hospitalisation in March 2020. As such, it’s something that we know we have to minimise in the future, and so we won’t be doing nearly as many things away from home as we used to do pre-pandemic.

Finding a balance is going to be quite tough.

Choose Your Own Adventure books
Some new reading material. I’ve been enjoying reading my old childhood gamebooks again recently (the Asterix ones are fab!) so I added some more to an Amazon order to qualify for free delivery 🙂

This week’s earworm playlists:

Saturday

Murray Gold – ‘Doomsday’
Michael Land – ‘The Swamp’
Duran Duran – ‘Five Years’

Sunday

Michael Land and Clint Bajakian – ‘Opening Credits Part #1’
Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Bully In The Alley’

Monday

Fisherman’s Friends – ‘Bully In The Alley’
Blink-182 – ‘All The Small Things’
The Offspring – ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’
Patti Smith – ‘Because The Night’

Tuesday

The Running Channel – ‘Run With Me’

Wednesday

Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’
Carter USM – ‘And God Created Brixton’

Thursday

Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’

And a bonus track Geth was humming that day:

Lisa Lougheed – ‘Run With Us’

Friday

Mark Knopfler – ‘Local Hero’
Duran Duran – ‘Invisible’