Review: Island of the Lizard King / Author: Ian Livingstone / Publisher: Tin Man Games / Release Date: Out Now
Tin Man Games have been steadily going through the Fighting Fantasy catalogue of adventure game books, picking out the ones that are most fondly regarded or remembered. It’s quite a long list and it’s no small feat converting paper and ink adventure games into handy apps for smartphones. Though books that require the reader to choose the next paragraph to read are still around, they hit the height of their popular market appeal in the '80s, and it’s nice to see that they’re getting a new lease of life through new technology. The latest conversion is Island of the Lizard King.
The plot sees the player on a quest to free some slaves from the tyranny of an evil lizard man, who is building up an army of darkness on the backs of dwarves and men. Mostly, you run about the island, trying to avoid the deadly flora and beating up the murderous fauna. Challenge wise, it gets the balance between action adventure and problem solving about right, relying mostly on the player's wits rather than demanding that the reader re-do one passage or another.
Of all of the conversions done so far, Island of the Lizard King is one of those games that players of the original will want to go back to, because they’re likely to have a lot of fond memories of playing it back in the day. The paragraph that follows the final battle in this adventure has become a shibboleth of sorts for fans of adventure game books. Without spoiling it, there is a line that sums up everything that is good about the incredibly engaging geeky fun that these books evoke, and seeing this passage on an iPhone (or Android device) is just as pleasing as it is on the page. Seeing it also means you’re about to win the game, or not as the case may be.
The usual features that we’ve come to expect from Tin Man are present. You can set the game to role virtual dice (which you can knock and fudge like real dice, but only so much), play the adventure in easy mode (by pretty much ignoring the rules and turning to pages you have not earned the right to go to) and set various bookmarks so you can start the game again from previous points. This means you can play the game anyway you fancy and Tin Man have wisely not changed a thing about it. The ‘achievements’ function (which rewards you for various actions) is still as superfluous as ever, though there is a guilty pleasure to be had from seeing an award pop up when you do certain things. (This writer's favourite has to be The Burninator, an award you get for being a horrible person.) All in all, fun for old gamers and a great introduction for gamers-yet-to-be.