Chooseco, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-937133-34-4
Paranormal, 2019 (Reissue)
Return of the Ninja takes place shortly after Secret of the Ninja, and it’s a direct sequel, so you will be playing the same character and meet the same BFF that got you into trouble the last time around – Nada the ninja guru or something.
Indeed, this time around, Nada asks you to temporarily teach her students at the dojo – her grandmother is ill and no one seems to know the cure. She understandably wants to be by her grandmother’s side. So, you are doing your thing when a ninja shows up to cause trouble. What you choose to do will determine your adventures for the rest of the campaign. Aside from the usual mundane suspense stuff, there is a chance at time travel, magical Buddhism (don’t ask), tangling with ninjas, and then some. The plot is linked to the other gamebook in some way, of course, because ninjas always have all the fun.
Thing is, this campaign feels more like a cutscene-heavy video game than anything else. Sure, you can argue that Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks are all like that, but the effect is especially noticeable here. You pick an option, and then you basically watch – or read – helplessly as things keep happening often without your say. You are a passive bystander in most cases. If this weren’t annoying enough, the route you are taking may just lead you to walk right into an abrupt, bizarrely-timed ending. You can be having fun traveling back to medieval Japan, for instance, only to, after doing some things, announce that you will continue your thing the next day, and then… the end. What? Why end there? Did they run out of pages? (Most likely.) Did Jay Lebold become bored and just plopped a wet “The End” onto the page before moving on to something more interesting?
The end result is more akin to a pseudo-gamebook than anything else. Needless to say, Return of the Ninja can be a pretty unsatisfying time-waster.