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Literature / Island of the Undead

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Island of the Undead is the 51st entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by Keith Martin (author of Vault of the Vampire).

Many years ago, powerful wizards studying the powers of Magic and of the Elements of nature decided to establish a colony on Solani Island, not too far away from the shores of Allansia's Strait of Knives. Their presence kept undesired threats at bay from the fishing villages, but suddenly, something went wrong. Mysterious storms stroke the sea and the coast, and living dead suddenly roam the land, seemingly coming from the sea itself, and no-one has heard anything from the Wizards of Solani. The village elders decide to sent you, the strongest and bravest villager, to sail to Solani and investigate the cause of this disaster. There, shambling dead, arcane horrors and deadly secrets awaits you.

Island of the Undead follows the expected format of many adventures of the series, with some unique twists, including the score of Presence, which helps you fighting the undead and makes people react better to you, along with puzzles and codes required to proceed along the story.

Island of the Undead provides examples of:

  • After Boss Recovery: After killing the Master of Fire, you're given some rounds to perform some actions and consume healing items before facing the next obstacle.
  • All Monks Know Kung-Fu: Too bad for you, a Zombie-Monk in the ruined monastery still remembers enough martial arts to be a dangerous opponent.
  • The Atoner: The Masters of Earth and Air, once you destroy the Elemental Vortex and clear their minds.
  • Badass Normal: In retrospect, your character: while the heroes of others books are, most of the time, navigated and confident adventurers or even half-wizards or demon slayers or whatnot, it's highly implied that here your hero is just the slightly-stronger-than-average fisherman who wants to protect his people, and still faces undead monsters and freaks of magic alone.
  • Big Bad: The Master of Fire and the Dire Specter possessing him.
  • Blob Monster: A Mutated Amoeba is encountered as a thougher-than-usual example in the laboratory of the Master of Water.
  • Boss Bonanza: The final confrontation have you facing the Fire Master's Black Skeleton, the Master of Fire himself, and the Dire Spectre.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: The Masters of Air and Earth are under a spell which pits them against each other for no reason at all.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Lampshaded when you pick up the bottle of Olive Oil: the narrations points out that while at the moment it looks useless, you just feel that it may turn out to be useful in the future.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The four elements in this game (and the things related to them) are colored Red for Fire, Blue for Water, Yellow for Air and Brown for Earth.
  • Continuity Nod: The Hydra-Snake in the Swamp looks identical to the one encountered in Island of the Lizard King.
  • Cool Sword: An enchanted scimitar you can steal from a Ghoulified Pirate Captain. If that's not a Cool Sword...
  • Creating Life Is Bad: The Master of Water and his studies on creating artificial life-forms and the undead started the whole problem, and he's arguably far more evil than his colleagues.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons are frequently encountered as enemies on the island. They also include more exotic and powerful variants such as the Bone Golem, the dragon-like, sickle-wielding Mutant Skeleton and the fire-breathing Black Skeleton.
  • Demonic Possession: The Dire Specter carelessly invoked by the Master of Fire took over his body and started this mess. In the end, he tries to pull this on you.
  • Drop-In Nemesis: If you manage to obtain the help of a small, Pseudo-dragon-like creature, a massive Stonewight will appear from nowhere to crush it before he can reveal more useful information about the Wizards.
  • Elemental Powers: The four Wizards on Solani were studying the four elements of magic, namely Earth, Air, Water and Fire.
  • Elemental Rivalry: The Master of Air and Master of Earth deeply hate each other's guts. It was actually invoked with a spell by the Master of Fire, who played this half-straight by killing the Master of Water.
  • Elemental Tiers: Judging from the order of the tower's dungeons, Air and Earth occupy the same floor, next comes Water and finally, Fire. Unsurprisingly, the Master of Fire is the strongest of the four wizards.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The Master of Fire wasn't one, but became one after taking over the Master of Water and being possessed by the summoned Dire Specter.
  • Eviler than Thou: The Master of Fire took over the undead-summoning project of the Master of Water and torched him to oblivion.
  • Eye of Newt: While exploring the island, you can come across some items which can later be used inside the Black Tower's laboratory to craft useful potions and balms.
  • Final Boss: The Dire Specter, emerging from the charred remains of the Master of Fire.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: You are a fisherman, and from a poor village at that, that's why you start with a meager knife rather than the usual "broadsword of the finest steel and leather armor" combo seen in nearly all the other titles.
  • I Know Your True Name: Invoked, you have to find out the names of some important characters and use a specific code to access a special dialogue with them, including talking to the Masters of Earth and Air without fighting them.
  • Lizard Folk: A tribe of the live in the marshy forest in the south of the island, but are surprisingly friendly if you're lucky. There are also mutant lizardmen employed by the Big Bad.
  • Living Statue: The Bronze Manikin, which grows into a two-meter tall statue as soon as you retrieve it from a chest. It may or may not attack you, depending on the actions you take.
  • MacGuffin Guardian: Two of the Barrows in the forest are guarded by a wraith and a Fire Elemental, while the dungeons of the Black Tower have more of them, guarding the important stuff of the four masters.
  • Mad Scientist: The Master of Water is revealed to have been one, creating artificial life and wanting to study the undead for the same reason.
  • The Man Behind the Man: The Dire Specter to the Master of Fire and, by extension, the other two masters of Earth and Air.
  • Mercy Kill: You can perform one on one of the artificially-created monsters tied up in a dungeon room, and it nets you a Presence point.
  • Mundane Utility: Among the eldritch and mysterious machinery create by the Master of Water, there's a device that turns sludge into edible, nutrient slime.
  • Multiple Head Case: Your enemies includes a pair of two-headed lizard men, and a two-headed hydra.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: If you step in the wrong place inside the swamp you're attacked by an alligator.
  • Necromancer: The Wizards wanted to study the undead (and use some of them as cheap labour), then things went south...
  • No-Gear Level: In the very beginning, you don't even have a sword, just a knife to defend yourself, a rucksack and no armor.
  • Plot Coupon: The four gemstones (a ruby, a topaz, a sapphire and a tiger's eye) required to access the innermost sanctum, along with the diamond you can obtain from the Masters of Air and Earth if you had the four mentioned stones.
  • Shark Man: You can stumble into a ferocious sea-battle near the shore between the Always Chaotic Evil Shark-kins and Mermen. Helping the former is a tremendously bad option, as the ungrateful bastards reward you by making an hors-d'oeuvre out of your intestines.
  • Skippable Boss: There is no reason to fight the Master of Water's spirit, but you can if you want to.
  • The Undead: Most of the enemies you'll encounter. The opening chapter has you fending off a Sea Zombie on the beach.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: In a rather unusual case, you can make a special oil poison made to slay spectral creatures, which makes the Dire Specter go Oh, Crap! if you use it in combat.