Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:26:41 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Now, this is another one I'm very familiar with. This was my first book, I think, that I got way back as a youngster. If it isn't the first, certainly it's the second.
L'île du roi lézard, as it is called in french, had everything I desired when I was young: A real cool monster on the cover and lots of monsters inside. Really, back then, that was all I was interested in. I didn't have lots of money, so the book had to deliver on the monster side of things. If you add the fact that, back then, I was also a huge dinosaur fan, then Island of the Lizard King was a shoe-in for my tastes.
I remember playing that book a lot. Now, having recently acquired the Wizard edition and played it again, I can offer a fresh take on the matter.
First, the new cover vs. the old. Now that's hard. I like both of them, frankly. But the original is by Iain McCaig, who can argue against that? Really well done. On the other end, Martin McKenna's Lizard King, an obvious hommage to the original cover, is also very well done, and dare I say, even more menacing than the original. The only thing that brought this cover down for me is the obvious use of computer painting tools to enhance the end result, making the Lizard King more photorealistic. The intention is noble, but for me that sort of photoshop/green screen effect collage is a bit of a turn off. Still, great covers.
Inside illustrations by Alan Langford are overall great. I got lots of nostalgia going for them, I know, but I'm still fond of quite a few of them.
The story itself now is not so bad. In fact, most of it is great, an adventure with some epic vision, but with an end result not quite up to it. I mean, the battle at the fort could have been fleshed out a bit more, giving that epic moment it's due, but alas, it goes by very quickly. The book though, overall, and that's counting the ending, is full of great imagery and scenes, some original, some quite cliché. It's shock full of battles if that's your kind of thing, while being low on puzzles, if there are any. Sure you'll have to find a boat load of items to help you succeed, but it wouldn't be a Livingstone book otherwise.
Special mention to one ridiculous scene that made me laugh: after the Shaman informed you that a monkey was required for you know what! Not long after you come across the corpse of a Seaman out there in the middle of nowhere... and there's a living monkey attach to him! My lucky day! With that kind of Deus Ex Machina luck how can I possibly fail??
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:27:50 GMT
sylas: _________________________________________ In the world of Fighting Fantasy (and many others), if Magic can't explain the indecipherable mysteries of life and circumstance, then Luck can. It's not a good reason; but it's a reason.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:33:13 GMT
sylas: _________________________________________ Still, i prefer original ideas to leaving everything hanging on Magic and Luck. Original ideas show that the author is making a real effort into making something unbelievable, believable. Otherwise we'll soon have Sharks sprouting Pomegranates. 'How can that be possible?' you ask. 'That's Magic.'
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:35:29 GMT
vastariner: _________________________________________ Actually, it makes sense for there to be a monkey on Fire Island. Perhaps a rumour had gone out about the Lizard King's morbid fear, and a Brave Adventurer had gone with a view to fighting him...
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:36:12 GMT
greenspine: _________________________________________ Fantasy needs to be internally consistent. There's a place for random absurdity in fantasy gamebooks (and the Grail Quest series wouldn't be half as much fun without the wacky moments), but it doesn't sit well in a fantasy world that isn't generally disposed to silliness. When the second issue of Fighting Fantazine comes out, you'll see what I have to rant on the tendency of Livingstonian adventurers to fortuitously come across things that turn out to be useful or essential in their quest.
Island isn't your typical Livingstone item-hunt, in that there don't seem to be any routes through it that miss out some essential item. Only 2 out of the Shaman's 6 tests require you to have a specific something, so as long as you pick the right tests, you don't have to have found the right objects. In a similar vein, if you have the monkey (and I don't think it's possible to not find it), you don't even need to find the one weapon to which the Lizard King is vulnerable, as you're only a Test your Luck away from being given one in the final confrontation.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:38:01 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Just to be clear, I was not saying it's right that some story elements are left to luck, magic or fate. Au contraire. I do think it's lazy-ass. I'm saying that some authors might have the misguided tendencies to solve these little story problems with these annoying tools and then explain their decisions by saying it was all in a fantasy context. Like this would be a good excuse for allowing all of the author's laziness to flow freely.
The worst Livingstone thing is the tendency to find a shopping centre where the customer footfall would be about eight per decade.
Are there any of those in Island of the Lizard King? I can't remember... The one in Eye of the Dragon is probably my favourite, and the way it's so nonchalantly written, completely without surprise on the part of the PC. And the fact that not only does he sell things you could actually use to your advantage in the dungeon (How does he get away with that?) but just a little up the corridor from his front door is a rigged flagstone that activates and arrow-firing trap. Obviously a lot of market research went into the setting up of that particular store....
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:43:35 GMT
greenspine: _________________________________________ Well, the proprietor is obviously Ian himself, so I guess he just writes in a new customer any time trade is bad. Or maybe the arrow-firing trap enables him to retrieve his stock (and any loose change) from careless customers.
Back on topic, there's no shop in IotLK, but there is a good deal of useful (if, for the most part, non-essential) stuff just lying around. And a few harmful items, one of which (perversely) has minor beneficial side-effects.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:43:59 GMT
hynreck: _________________________________________ Yes, even the venom from the rattlesnake can have a good effect if you encounter the Grannits (other than getting the awesome item hidden in the hole).
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:44:37 GMT
greenspine: _________________________________________ Make that two with beneficial side-effects, then, as one of the 'bad' items in the box from the pond can help you pass one of the Shaman's tests and avoid a mildly harsh fight.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:45:47 GMT
analander: _________________________________________ Being a fan of early Livingstone, I decided to give this book a try. Among the first 10 books in the range, this one and Scorpion Swamp were the only ones not published in my country during the 90s, and I'm not sure why.
Well, the cover is pretty amazing. McCaig was hitting the nail on the head all the time with his cover illustrations at that point of the series, and this one is no different. A very strong image of the Lizard King with his black lion. But Alan Langford didn't stay behind, and the inside illustrations are great as well, perhaps one of the best of the entire range. Really well done, a great complement to the story.
Now the story itself. If his name wasn't on the cover, I would never guess that it was written by Livingstone. It simply doesn't fit his basic profile of: (1) extreme linearity, (2) item hunt and (3) overpowered monsters. First of all, it's interesting to notice that you don't actually need to pass the Shaman's test to win. He gives you important information, true, but even without it you could still make the right choices and actually win, given that you only need one or two items to win. This means that anything you do most of the book (from the beginning until you reach the Shaman) is not very important, so any path you follow is alright. There are some powerful monsters that you will have to beat, but not so many as one would expect.
One thing that really bothered me: characters are poorly used. Mungo dies right at the beginning, almost when he sets foot in the island. Other potentially interesting characters, like the guy you can save from the Headhunters and the girl with the sabre-toothed tiger pet, are used for basically nothing. Not even the fact that you're leading an army towards the end helps, since the army has no impact on gameplay. You just face a few monsters by yourself. Unfortunately, even though you meet a lot of people along the way and you're surrounded by an army at the end, what prevails is the "lone adventurer" atmosphere. I know this is a trademark of FF books, the "you're the hero" stuff, but some books distinguish themselves by the way you can connect and interact with other characters. Here, I simply couldn't care about the people I was freeing.
Despite its flaws, I won't say that I dislike Island of the Lizard King. The island itself is an interesting scenario and gameplay is at least fair. But it isn't memorable for sure. My overall attitude towards this book is one of indifference.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:47:54 GMT
9673684: _________________________________________ I thought the gongchong (is that right?) was really hideous and an interesting idea. I liked how it kind of served as a ceremonial headpiece for the king.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:48:38 GMT
sylas: _________________________________________ Seeing that cover for the first time also made me think it was a crown to begin with, so the twist that it wasn't was quite unique. Certainly one of Livingstone's better books. Memorable without being fantastic.
Post by thealmightymudworm on Oct 2, 2013 0:49:28 GMT
analander: _________________________________________ I do agree that the gonchong was a very nice idea and, actually, I think that Ian is an author with a lot of good ideas, and that's why I use to like him so much when I was a kid. He created fantastic scenarios in North Allansia, like Blacksand, Fang and its Trial of Champions, Stonebridge, Vatos in the Desert of Skulls, and so on.
Later, I started to realise that, sadly, many times he is not so good at executing his ideas. His narrative is often rushed, imo. A lot of short sections with only "you reach a junction", "you turn left/right", "you go up/down", ... Usually only a few key sections have a long, detailed description of your surroundings and/or interaction with other characters. And he does have some annoying habits. For example, the gonchong's host can only be harmed by a fire sword, so of course the Lizard King has a collection of them! Even though I must admit that this problem doesn't concern only Livingstone, it seems to be a habit among Titan's evildoers to keep the one thing that can destroy them under their pillows!
Post by johnbrawn1972 on Jul 19, 2017 22:49:20 GMT
Solution now readable and logic slightly improved. My limit seems to be 11/14/7 which has converted me to taking the Potion Of Strength.
As I have slightly improved the aesthetic and logic of the first classic texts it has made it so readily apparent how the difficulty level was ramped up. At a push 7/14/7 for 1-4. 9/14/7 for 5. 11/14/7 for 6 and 7. Interlude with 9/14/7 for the 3 story 8. Finally 12/14/7 is the minimum for 9(I remember completing it with these stats many moons ago but it took me multiple attempts)
Post by dragonwarrior8 on Dec 29, 2018 17:44:19 GMT
While I wouldn't say its great I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Agree with the above that the gonchong was a very creepy idea. I hope it makes a return in later books. There was one encounter I found puzzling though, the one with the girl and the sabre-tooth tiger. This section seems to exist solely so they could include the artwork of the hot girl in a bikini. Too bad because I would have loved to have had her as a companion!