Robbers And Robots (Endless Quest #9) [ePub]

by Mike Carr

While the other “Endless Quest” books I’ve reviewed were all based on Dungeons and Dragons, this was a rare example of a TSR-endorsed “choose-your-own-adventure” novel based on another of their products: “Top Secret,” the espionage role-playing game. “Top Secret,” as I played it, was more or less a Cold War James Bond-sort of adventure game, one that worked better for two players (one GM and one super-spy) than for the usual “parties” of other RPGs. As I remember my “Top Secret” adventures, they usually climaxed with the player working against time to defuse a nuclear warhead before it destroyed some large population center – sometimes while riding the missile to which it was attached after liftoff.

This book is nothing like that, although it is an interesting twist on contemporary espionage. It involves corporate espionage against a robot manufactory. The villains are still Russian, but actually the premise would still work in a post-cold-war setting, with Russian plutocrats (or maybe Putin’s secret service) hiring mercenaries to steal corporate secrets from American tech companies. Nothing in the text would really contradict that scenario. The other difference is that, where my friends and I would role play adult super-spies, this book makes you a male young adult who happens to be related to the owner of the targeted factory. That’s a bit more disappointing, but I’ve talked about that weakness in the “Endless Quest” series before.

So, how does it play? Pretty well, actually. There are a number of different directions you can go, and each storyline is nicely contained, without a lot of places where you can jump from one track to another while missing needed backstory. The introductory segment is somewhat long, and on re-reads one will tend to skip over it, but it doesn’t bog the story down too much, just sets up what you need to know about the situation and your strengths and weaknesses. Of course, the most fun result is the one that leads to the robot battle depicted on the front cover, but several others are also amusing and entertaining. Most of them have you come out ahead, or outright “winning,” but bad or lazy choices are punished with failure. Because there are so many trajectories (and so fewpages), the storylines tend to be somewhat short, but not so much as to feel disappointing.

The one thing that surprised me is that there is at least some variation in the scenario, based on which choices you make. Most of the “win” endings I tried had my uncle who owned the factory very happy with me, setting up a scholarship for me to study robotics, etc. But, in one, he appears to have been implicated in the robbery. There’s nothing wrong with changing the rules of the game like that, so long as nothing in the narrative contradicts it, but it is unusual in this sort of adventure, and it gave me a moment’s pause.

Overall, this was a fun book that might hold up for young adults today, although having to run out and “find” a phone will probably date it.

12.10.2011

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