Friday, 13 June 2008

"Doctor Who - Decide Your Destiny: War of the Robots" by Trevor Baxendale

Regular Who author Trevor Baxendale joins the Decide Your Destiny stable with this sixth book in the series (which has so far made it to twelve entries), the dramatically titled War of the Robots. Baxendale's adventure is set "on a distant world populated by robots [where] war has been raging for many years. Can you, the Doctor and Martha discover why the robots are fighting and end the war once and for all?" Ooh, peaceful.

The story begins as it means to go on -- with war! Smoke, gunfire, explosions... it's all-action here. Sadly, the first time I read the book through, Baxendale fell prey to the same trap as Davey Moore, shuttling the reader from page to page without any choices. It was so brief and horridly linear that I did actually read it through again, the first time I've bothered to do that. As an exercise, this showed how unlucky you can get with the wrong choices, as a re-read (attempting to follow several paths at once, too) gave me many more options and longer, more action-packed storylines. The first time through we quickly wound up on a space station, talking a robot into stopping the war; the second time we encountered a group of humans, and wound up killing robots and battling robot dogs. Compared to this, it's a shame the somewhat dull space station alternative even exists. Elsewhere, the choices offered are decent enough (importantly, as I stress with good reason in every review, you direct your character and not the story), if never hugely different. To be fair, I imagine it must be hard to offer many branches with just over 100 segments, and it may be too harsh to pick on the story always leading to similar events -- especially when I also call for the NPCs to be doing more or less the same things in every version.

Get the right path and Baxendale's book provides an entertaining read with moderately varied choices and some exciting sequences; but get the wrong one and you'll be shuttled through a dull denouement -- possibly a common problem that I just haven't been unfortunate enough to come across before. Even with this, it's one of the series' better efforts.

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