Do you want to play a game? Let’s boot up A Game Called Chaos, by Franklin W. Dixon
A stalking wolf! Monster spiders and snakes! This game is real – and deadly!
Legendary computer game designer Steven Royal has disappeared – with the only complete new game in the Chaos series. With just two weeks to go before the game goes into production, Viking Software, where Frank and Joe’s friend Chelsea works, is in big trouble. The boys must find the master disk – now!
Strange e-mails lead the boys into a dark steam tunnel and then to a remote state park, where weird creatures attack them. After barely escaping with their lives, they end up in a creepy New England ghost town. Time is running out, and danger lurks around every corner. But the most awesome monster of all is ready to download real chaos!
Source: Back of the book (courtesy Goodreads link)
A while ago, I decided on a whim to review an old Hardy Boys book I had sitting on my bookshelf. Well, I happened to have another one lying around, so I figured why not review it as well?
Now, I stated in the previous review that I read two distinct series of Hardy Boys novels: the Casefiles and the Mystery Stories. In my recollections, the Casefiles tended to be shorter and slicker, more focused on action beats than on laying out a proper mystery, while the Mystery Stories were slower paced and put more effort into the clues and characters. Now, I stand by that assessment: the Casefiles definitely had more blood and death and violence in its first volume than you’d find in any dozen randomly selected Mystery Stories. However, that’s only a general rule, and doesn’t apply to every single volume. The Mysteries Stories could go some pretty weird places themselves, on occasion. Case in point: in A Game Called Chaos, investigating a kidnaped video game developer leads to the Hardy Boys fighting robots.
Robots, shaped like snakes and spiders and a giant gorilla.
No, there’s no actual reason for it. The villain is just kinda crazy and really likes robots.
It’s ironic, because the villain’s motivation is wanting more money, and the Hardy Boys note that she must have spent a ton of money building these pointless robot things.
They aren’t even that dangerous – aside from the giant gorilla, none succeed in hurting anyone.
Alright, leaving aside the villain’s insane robot fetish, how is the plot? Well… it kind of has some holes in it. See, she had up to now been living off of royalty money from Steven Royal’s games. But Royal changed his contract for the latest game, planning to keep all the money for himself, and she couldn’t contest it in court because she had faked her death and was living under a false identity. So, instead, she kidnaps Royal. Okay, I’m with her up to this point. But then, for some reason, she decides to leave a trail of riddles and hints as to the location of her secret lair where she’s keeping Royal prisoner. Why? Why would you do that? It is the most utterly stupid and counterproductive thing she could possibly do. For instance…
“As we suspected, Sakai did have her own program within the university computer. When we went poking around, the program activated, sending us the clue. That’s how she knew when to go to Kendall State Park with Scavenger and roll the rocks away from the cave entrance.”
– Frank Hardy, Chapter 16, “The Final Blow”
Why move the rocks away from the cave entrance, when you’re trying to hide Royal? Why send the clue in the first place? You make no sense, crazy lady! The Hardys say she was playing “a game of revenge”, but she wanted revenge against Royal – who she already had tied up in her lair. Who exactly did she expect would be following the clues? What kind of person commits a perfect crime but then feels compelled to leave behind a trail of cryptic clues and deadly traps for the detective who wouldn’t even be on the case if not for those very riddles and… and… and…
It all makes sense now. Obviously she laid these elaborate traps out for the Batman, only for the Hardy Brother to unwittingly fall into them instead. I get it now! It all makes sense!
…No, wait, it’s still stupid. Nevermind.
Now’s the point where I’d bring Dlanor back to comment about how well the mystery follows the rules of fair play like she did for the last one, but she refused as soon as she heard about the robots. Said that meant it no longer qualified as a mystery, but was some kind of action-adventure story instead. Sorry about that.
So, yeah… in hindsight, this one doesn’t hold up too well either. Still, I remember enjoying it as a kid, and it’s one from the series that I apparently liked enough to actually buy and keep on my shelf all these years, so I’ll give it a +1 Nostalgia Bonus.
Final Rating: 3/5