Saturday, 5 April 2008

#7 - Island of the Lizard King

Success! Finally, no less than seven books in, I managed to complete one. I know I know, narratively I shouldn't reveal this till the end, but I'm just so excited... was it the change in dice (I couldn't find ol' unlucky reds, and instead used so-fresh-so-clean green), or the fact I was stalking the island of the Lizard King, in a previous age known as Mr Mojo Risin'?

Enough music geekery. I rolled a skill of 11, big help, even if I lost two points later on while trying to chip a gemstone (Why? Because it was an option, why else?), which I regained upon finding a vitally important sword. Add to that a stamina of 21 and eight luck (no guessing which of the potions I chose) and I thought, yeah, I've got a shot at this.

There's a convoluted story behind why you've got to invade this island and depose this self-proclaimed king, which I won't go into except to say it's pretty noble, and rather suicidal. Regardless, you begin the adventure with a companion, Mungo, and if you know anything about the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, it's that companions who aren't a part of your Adventure Sheet aren't permanent by any means - they'd might as well be described as wearing red tunics or something.

Anyway, we're immediately told there's a circus in town down the road, the infamous Trial Of Champions... seven books in, Jackson and Livingstone were already building an empire of sorts. It's a nice tie-in, if a little obvious in the very next book :)

So we reach the titular island, Mungo's inevitably killed (by a giant crab of all things), and I'm right into eating and drinking random things (look, I'm tying into my previous posts, just like...). After defeating a band of headhunters, I chowed on their bananas and coconuts, receiving a single stamina point in reward. One? It makes you wonder what the hell my normal provisions are made of, considering they each give me four stamina points, and I can fit ten of them in my backpack (with all the other crap I'm carrying, it must be some kind of spaceman food). Later in the book, I'm forced to use one meal - the explanation being I need salt to rid my legs of leeches. Salt, huh? Magic.

I ate some fungus, well at least I tried to. It sprayed rash-inducing spores into my face, which cleared up pretty quickly. Still, I was offered to eat what was left. Um, nuh-uh.

Some pygmies gave me some berries in exchange for a hand-axe. Not having learnt my lesson, I ate some, and my stamina increased by TWO stamina points. Salt is four, berries are two, but bananas and coconuts are a meagre one. Imagine if I found a hamburger on this island!

No hamburgers, but something equally as awesome showed up - a 'Pouch of Unlimited Contents'. Ooer. It sounds like something out of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but here it was, in medieval Allansia. The only use I had for it putting the spear and axe I didn't have into it so they wouldn't fall off a raft while fighting a crocodile, but I'm sure it came in handy carrying all that damn salt I must've needed to supply me with enough nutrients to heal my wounds.

So I battled and ate my way across the island, eventually reaching the mines where the enslaved dwarves were kept. Before rescuing them however, I had to find them. And how did I find them? I quote:

"A thought suddenly crosses your mind that perhaps the boots you are wearing might be enchanted. You put your foot up against the wall and try to walk up it. Sure enough, it works. You are wearing a magical pair of Boots of Climbing."

No previous mention was made of mushroom-eating or those pygmies' berries being enchanted, for the record. I don't often purchase new shoes and wonder, a few days later, if they are enchanted, but I certainly will now! Lucky it was a wall I needed to walk through when I began wondering if my boots were magic, and not a crocodile-infested pit that needed jumping across.

In my adventures underground I also acquired a pail of water, which I carried through a couple of fights, eventually giving to some dwarves. It's amazing the things you just know you'll need - like a monkey.

At work, at least where I work now, we often joke about how cool it'd be to have an army of monkeys to do your bidding (I think I'm the only one of us who has seen Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and therefore the only one who thinks it could possibly be a bad idea in reality) but when I was told the Lizard King (I can't stop picturing Jim Morrison) is afraid of monkeys, I realised this book was way cooler than I remember.

So I took Bubbles on my shoulder like some kind of primatical pirate, and went into battle, dispatching a hobgoblin and a cyclops with this bizarre, but obviously useful, distraction. I know the authors state in the introduction there are dead ends and red herrings, but a pet monkey? Come on! Okay, I knew he'd come in handy, but even if I didn't, there's no way I'd turn down a monkey companion, if only to replace Mungo.

Turns out (shocking!) the Lizard King is afraid of monkeys. Why? Well, who wouldn't be afraid of a monkey willing to sit on the shoulder of a complete stranger as said stranger fought and battled his way through an army of Lizard Men, hobgoblins and cyclopses? Cyclopsi?

In the end, perhaps I'd done too well - despite having no more than four stamina points and no magic, salty food - as the Lizard King himself was a pushover. There's no record of whether Jim Morrison was afraid of monkeys, but even he'd have put up a better fight.

So wooooo! I completed one. I suppose it helped there are less instant deaths in this book than some of the previous ones... and some have suggested it's quite linear and less dependant on having specific items/knowledge (though if you do have them, it makes it considerably easier). I suppose I had enough... a lot of I found was based on reading things. Wow! Who would've thought a gamebook would place such emphasis on reading!?

My copy only mentions the previous six as being available, so must be pretty old, but has the green Puffin strip across the top, unlike the pic above. The title page inside has the Lizard King hanging out with a two-headed dragon. I'm glad I never had to find out if the two-headed dragon was a part of the story at all...

One from seven! If this was cricket I'd be screwed, but I'm just glad to be on the scoreboard...


Ed said...

Fighting the 'two-headed dragon' (actually another Hydra) is the only way to avoid the leeches. Frankly, you're probably better off losing the salt...

Dan said...

If only salt was mightier than the sword...

Aussiesmurf said...

Another classic from my youth. I think this was the second game of the first seven (after Citadel of Chaos) that I completed totally legitimately.

The whole monkey / fire-sword thing was dead easy, and I liked the outdoor setting, after five books (not counting Starship Traveller) of dungeons and cities.

The idea of the Gonchong was downright creepy for an eight-year-old...