(For a game by Anchorhead-author Michael Gentry, this game has surprisingly few ratings on IFDB. A children’s seafaring adventure that is great for adults too, just like a good children’s book.
The Lost Islands of Alabaz - Details (ifdb.org))
Ten Pearly Isles
The Lost Islands of Alabaz is a fun and energetic travel-adventure. It’s aimed at children and has the feel of the “boy’s adventures”-books I used to eat up by the dozens as a child. (For all I knew then, girls had books about knitting and princes. Except for my cool girlfriends, who also read the boy’s books… Sign of the times…?)
At the beginning of the story, you get to choose a name for your protagonist, which was a great draw-in for my son. We decided on his own name. After that, he let me do all the hard work and asked about status-reports on his quest each evening.
There is a detailed tutorial in the game in the form of Trig, your best friend NPC. He breaks the fourth wall to tell the player directly what to TYPE. Children playing their first IF might not notice, but for a veteran with several dozen games under my belt, having read numerous threads and essays about Player-PC-NPC-Narrator-Parser-relations this made me feel unbalanced at first.
I concluded that the aforementioned essays were taking things much too seriously…
One morning, you, a young knight, are called by the king to go on a quest. The ten islands of the kingdom have been separated by a cursed mist for dozens of years now and there is no sign that it will lift of its own accord. The people are suffering under the lack of trade, food and communication with friends and relatives.
The king gives you one magic pearl to guide you through the mist to one island. From there, you’re on your own. Find the cause of the curse and lift it, and find your way back home.
Not the most innovative of premises, but an engaging one. I did feel an obligation to fulfill this quest for the good of all the island-dwellers of Alabaz. (And to my son…)
The premise of the ten islands makes for a great sense of space. You’re a seafaring adventurer exploring the unknown!
The islands themselves all have small maps (five locations or less, except for the mazy one…) At first, I thought the author was using a Gateway -like technique, each island a self-contained puzzle-space in the bigger whole. The first islands of The Lost Islands of Alabaz are like this. The more islands you have encountered and explored though, the more it becomes necessary to revisit previous islands, making for a web of relations between the islands that has to be kept in mind.
The puzzles themselves are easy to medium difficulty.Most of them are simple fetch-quests and/or straightforward use-appropriate-object-here obstacles. To get them right however, the player needs to pay close attention to the information he’s given in conversations and in the out-of-game Almanac.
That’s right! With your download, you get an Almanac about the islands and how they were before the mist. It’s a nice 15-minute read, almost like an historical tourist-brochure. Embedded of course are many clues on how to solve the problems in the game.
Actually, the Almanac is just one of three hint-systems for the game. You also carry a journal, in which your progress is recorded along with reminders of puzzles you have yet to solve. And there is Trig. You can ask Trig about all the puzzles, repeatedly. He will start with giving you a nudge toward the first step of the solution, and give more explicit guidance after that.
There are a whole bunch of NPCs to whom you can talk. I found them to be well-characterized with a few strokes of the pen. They talk about many things, and to avoid confusion the author puts suggested topics that pertain directly to the puzzles between parentheses. All conversations use the syntax TALK ABOUT, although you can use ASK ABOUT too. I didn’t find any differences.
The Lost Islands of Alabaz plays very smoothly. There are many synonyms for nouns and verbs. The descriptions change in tune with the actions you perform on other islands. There are nice responses to “failed” attempts. The player can feel at ease that the game will not misbehave.
This game turned out to be a lot longer than I expected from the first play-session where I breezed through the first two islands. I spent a few evenings on this quest for the hidden magic pearls. Very enjoyable evenings.
Light adventurous fun. Go play.
Oh, as an extra incentive: You can compete in the Zeppelipede-racing Derby on the Island of RazzMaTazz! Yes, you can. In fact, you must!