Fighting Fantasy Reissues (Series 1) #17
Fighting Fantasy Gamebox 2 (Collection)
A Gyíkkirály szigete (Hungarian)
L'Ile du roi Lézard (French)
A ilha do rei lagarto (Portuguese)
Die Insel des Echsenkönigs (German)
La isla del Rey Saurio (Spanish)
L'isola del re lucertola (Italian)
Ostrov ještěřího krále (Czech)
Tokage-ou no shima [トカゲ王の島] (Japanese)
Øglekongens ø (Danish)
Island of the Lizard King (Digital Gamebook)
Corben, Richard (American cover)
McKenna, Martin (reissue cover)
Langford, Alan (interior)
March 29, 1984 (original)
January, 1985 (American edition)
December, 2003 (reissue)
0140317430 / 9780140317435
0440940273 / 9780440940272 (American edition)
1840464917 / 9781840464917 (reissue)
|Number of Endings:||10 instant failures, 1 victory, plus death by Stamina loss or bad Luck.|
|User Summary:||While visiting an old friend, you discover that his village has been attacked by reptilian kidnappers from a nearby island; you vow to stop their foul activities....|
This, the third Ian Livingstone book in a row, is sort of a conclusion to a trilogy; just as Deathtrap Dungeon mentions that you've come to Fang from Port Blacksand, so this book mentions that you're journeying on from Fang to a new destination. Although this adventure is often overlooked by fans of the series, it has some merit. Certainly, it's not as innovative or important as City of Thieves, but it's a lot more fun to play than Deathtrap Dungeon, even it doesn't have as creative or compelling a backstory. This book also holds a rather special place in my heart since it's one of the mere two Fighting Fantasy adventures that I managed to complete back in the old days before I learned that it takes hours of devotion and excessive mapping to survive most of these things.
Now that I've examined the book more closely for review purposes, I'm not too surprised that I won it all those years ago. It's not very hard at all, especially when you look at it next to the viciousness of Livingstone's two previous entries in the series. It's almost entirely linear, so there aren't too many chances to get lost; it's nice to be able to play a gamebook without having to stop and map things out every two seconds. It's also extremely forgiving -- even if you miss a few items or fail a crucial test, you usually still have a shot at victory if you're clever and a little lucky. Even the numerous combats in the story aren't insurmountable, thanks to numerous pieces of armor and special weapons scattered about. Perhaps in another context I might have actually complained that the book is too easy, but at this point in the series, I consider it a relief.
The biggest problem with the book is that it's not all that memorable. It starts off well, with Mungo being a fairly detailed character (for this series, at least), but once he's out of the picture (and it doesn't take long!), it becomes a fairly blurry series of random encounters that feel like a slightly more tropical rehash of Forest of Doom. It all leads up to a final, large-scale battle that should be exciting but ends up feeling merely like a missed opportunity to do something innovative. The Lizard King himself, too, doesn't live up to his potential, especially if you face him with sufficient foreknowledge to have an advantage over him; it almost makes one long for another shot at facing Balthus Dire. Perhaps the author was simply getting tired by this point; I certainly wouldn't be surprised -- he churned out a lot of pages in just a few months. It's a shame, though, that the miraculously non-frustrating gameplay didn't get a good accompanying story. This isn't a bad adventure, but it could have been a great one.
The first FF book I ever got, and still in many ways my favourite. It's a tough book to complete. I think the first time I played I was killed by a poisonous blade of grass (possibly my most embarrassing death).
The story has a bit more background and a more noble mission than the normal FF books. You try to free the slaves on an island. It has some needlessly difficult fights, but I guess Livingstone felt they had to be there.
The interior artwork is absolutely outstanding, some of the best in any book, and almost everything is illustrated.
Along with Starship Traveller, Island of the Lizard King is one of my two least favourite gamebooks from the early 'classic' releases in the Fighting Fantasy series. Although the scenario of vicious Lizard Men enslaving young men from Oyster Bay on the remote Fire Island offers plenty of scope for an exciting fantasy adventure, the book is quite unmemorable (except for your early companion Mungo – RIP my cheerful friend) and quickly becomes little more than a series of rather routine encounters on your way to a showdown with the titular King.
I was expecting black magic and voodoo to play a significant part in my adventure across the island, and importantly in the final encounter to defeat the 'mad and dangerous' Lizard King, however there’s very little beyond a few Pygmies, some easily defeated Headhunters and a meeting with the local Shaman (who simply asks that you pass three very basic tests before divulging his secrets) that could be described as anything involving dark arts and terrible consequences in a hostile environment.
Some of the primitive peoples and mutated creatures that you come across on your journey are interesting adversaries by themselves, but the battles are strictly without any great excitement and there appears to be no encounter where options are given to experiment with a range of interesting tactics or strategies. This is a shame, as a prehistoric island full of mutant Lizard Men should provide numerous opportunities to engage in unique confrontations that escalate as you approach the King’s fort.
As a lover of FF illustrations, I should note that Alan Langford has produced quite a few decent images for this book: the Hobgoblin (#168), Cyclops (#254) and Marsh Hopper (#317) are personal favourites. Unfortunately his image of a fat-bottomed version of the Lizard King and his pet Black Lion isn't of the standard of Iain McCaig’s awesome cover, which is a shame, but ultimately mirrors the book itself – promising much more than what it delivers.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to Ben Nelson for the dragon logo cover scan.|
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