By Ian Livingstone
Island of the Lizard King is another book by Ian Livingstone and has a tropical island setting which makes things a little different from the earlier books.
My hero looked like this:
The island itself was set up a as a penal colony with the Lizard Men as the guards. One of the Lizard men became a bit of a control freak, however, and took charge. Since then nothing has been heard from the island but people have been going missing, kidnapped by Lizard men so I decide to help them out and try and find out what is going on.
I team up with my friend, Mungo, and after sailing for a while, spot the island. I have a choice of which beach to land on, so try the one on the right where I see some pirates hauling a huge chest onto the beach. I can either go back to the other beach or attack them so I draw my sword and charge. It turns out to be a difficult fight and poor Mungo is killed. My reward for this is a chest full of iron bars – not the treasure I was hoping for, but it could come in handy later so I take one.
Heading inland, I end up travelling through dense jungle. I decide not to rest near a suspicious looking plant and continue but I am then set upon by some Headhunters who I have to fight off. After killing them, I eat their food and spot some smoke coming from their village so I decide to investigate. When I get there I see a man tied to a pole who, it looks like, is about to be killed. I think quickly and decide to set fire to some of their huts. This has the desired effect and I am able to to rescue the man. He then goes berserk and kills three of the other Headhunters leaving just the chief for me to deal with before he dies. I pick up the Spear held by the chief and carry on. A lot of hassle to go to for a measly Spear – hope it is useful…
Shortly the jungle turns to marsh and I see a Marsh Hopper and stupidly decide to follow it. Eventually it leads me to the lair of a Hydra. A-ha, I have a Spear so I throw it at the creature to try and kill it. Sadly if misses so I have to fight it. It is a tough fight but I eventually overcome it. Unfortunately it is not guarding any treasure but straight away I have to fight a Giant Watersnake. I slay it and am thankful when the ground becomes firmer and I walk towards a gorge.
I am given the option to climb up one of the hills so I take it. Sure enough, I miss a landslide that would have fallen just where I was going to walk. Having escaped that, I decide to go back down the gorge. A message on a boulder tells me to “Go back or die”. I decide to do neither of these things and I continue on. Walking on I see a snuff box so decide to have a look inside it. It contains a gold nugget and a note describing how I can get to the slave mines. Excellent..
Moving on, I encounter a Giant Lizard which I must fight. I manage to kill it and come to a pond. I investigate the pond and as I was bending down to have a drink, a Spit Toad spits water in my eye. Ouch, it hurts and I blindly swing my sword about, luckily one of my swishes of the sword impales the annoying toad so I am able to see what else the pond has in store for me. Hoorah, there is a wooden casket. It contains an assortment of treasures so I open a pouch, put on some boots, put a ring on my finger and drink some clear liquid (always dangerous!). The pouch is magic and I can put all my stuff in it, the boots seem to do nothing, the ring is a ring of confusion (great, a skill reduction) and the liquid is a potion of confusion. I feel a little miffed about these “treasures” but carry on regardless.
I carry on and see a tasty pig snuffling around. Yum. Oh, maybe my spear will come in handy after all! I chuck the spear at the pig but am unlucky and for the second time my spear misses its target.
Soon I come to a river, and remembering the note I found in the snuff box I look for the boat that was left by the previous owner and find it in the reeds. I start oaring down the river. I don’t expect this river journey to go well and sure enough, I see a Crocodile eyeing me greedily. Thinking quick, I whip that iron bar out from my pouch and jam it in the Crocodile’s mouth. Take that snappy! I sail on in peace. Further up the river I see an escaped prisoner so I decide to try and help him. For my troubles, he tries to stab me so I have to kill him. Note to self: Don’t help any more old men!
After a while I come across the slave camp and see some Lizard men guards. Heeding the warning in the note, I sneak past them and manage to find the entrance to the mine. I go in and head right.
I walk along the passage and see a dead dwarf lying next to a bore hole. Hmm.. suspicious, should I have a look inside? I start climbing into the hole and am told that it is very dark, am I sure I want to carry on? I take the hint and get of that hole and continue down the passage. I turn right at the junction but am attacked by some stones. Mindful of the fact that I was killed by a boulder beast in Forest of Doom I am a little concerned but they turn out to be fairly easy to fight off. I backtrack and head the other way at the junction. This ends in a dangerous looking shaft. This is when my boots from the pond kick into life and I am able to walk down the side of the shaft. At the bottom is a beautiful sword, which negates the skill penalty from the ring of confusion.
This is a dead end so I backtrack to the entrance to the mine and go in the other direction. In this direction I find another shaft with a ladder so I climb down and hide in the shadows when I hear a noise. Sure enough it is another Lizard man. I decide to creep along behind it but my potion of clumsiness rears its ugly head again and I kick a stone. Pleasingly the Lizard Man seems to be deaf so it doesn’t notice. I creep up behind it and knock it out. Soon I come across the first of the slaves. I start attacking their guard and the slaves revolt and join me in the attack. I then continue with my new found friends freeing more slaves and overwhelming more guards as we go.
Once I have rescued all the slaves, I am told that the Lizard King is controlled by a parasite on it’s head which makes it stronger. In order to find out how to defeat him I need to visit a shaman. I decide to do this alone so take my leave of the freed slaves and continue. I am told the river looks dangerous so I carry on by foot. I find some berries that I decide to eat. They are tasty but I am unfortunate and am found by a Giant Wasp. I kill it but it stings me and that costs me a skill point. Things are not looking good now – my skill is low, my stamina is getting precarious, I am running out of provisions and my luck is so low that I am pretty much never going to be lucky again!
Moving on I see some more food hanging from a tree. Mindful both of the fact that I desperately need more provisions but there will probably be a downside to this free food, I cut it down and stuff my face. It is tasty but sure enough, it attracts the attention of a bear. The bear is not friendly and is stronger than me. I manage to escape, limping and close to death.
I camp for the night and of course am unlucky so I am bitten by a vampire bat. ouch. In the morning I carry on and see a message from the shaman. He asks me to arrive with a feather in my hair so he know’s I come in peace. This is a bit weird but I remain mindful of this jaunty requirement. Unfortunately I never got to meet the shaman…
Walking on, a large Hill Troll jumps out at me from behind a rock. Haha. What a funny joke! Oh, he intends to kill me. I don’t even hurt the Troll before he slays me in combat.
Overall I felt this book was an interesting diversion. I liked the fact that it was set somewhere different and it was a story I could really get into – the lizard king and his parasitic controller is an interesting one and in fact one of my favourite video games, Star Control 2, has a similar back story for one of its alien races. However, the gameplay for this book was a bit samey. Walk for a bit, fight a monster, walk a bit more, fight another monster. Definitely the gamebook equivalent of a hack and slash.