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About the StoryOnce upon a time, our Kingdom was much larger than it is now, reaching across all ten islands of the Alabaz Archipelago. But then a terrible curse fell upon us. A thick, gray mist covered the sea, hiding each island from the others, cutting us off from our neighbors. Every ship that ventures into the mist becomes lost. No one knows where the other islands are or what has happened to the people there. For years we have studied the mist, hoping to discover some way to break the curse. We had almost given up hope. But now, we have discovered a secret that could solve the mystery of the mist once and for all. And we are giving that secret to you...
Responding with an edit since there isn't a direct comment option for news. I've had no issue downloading Release 1 from http://www.springthing.net/2011/. The website link here for Release 2 is defunct, but Release 2 is still available at http://www.ifarchive.org/indexes/if-archiveXgamesXglulx.html. -Floating info.
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Related reviews: Spring Thing 2011, children's, fantasy, large map, easy games, casual games
The plot: you are an Everyman child hero, tasked by the fatherly but inert King of Alabazopolis to reunite an archipelago-kingdom sundered by mists. To do this, you must take your child-crewed ship, explore the islands and recover magic pearls; there's more than a touch of anime about the scenario. Its strength is in its set-pieces, which include plenty of strange and striking imagery. (Some work much better than others.) The novice-friendly design is a more questionable virtue; the influence of casual gaming is obvious, with heavy-handed pointers and showers of achievements, and a character whose main function is to follow you around dispensing tutorials.
Despite this, Alabaz is consciously old-schoolish; it's a substantial size, and there's a lot of Zork and Myst here. As a game for children, its worst structural flaw is that it's a big-map game that's designed in ways that make travel very tedious, even when you've solved all the relevant puzzles. Apart from this, the puzzles are solidly designed and appropriately easy; but I think that this was intended as a game to be played over many evenings, which is hard to do with easy puzzles. The tedious navigation fills that gap.
In terms of content, there's a sort of uneasy dissonance that a child might or might not pick up on: it's a world where adults behave like sulky children and children behave like responsible adults, and it's also a world that promises heroism but fails to deliver, because heroism requires real monsters, and in Alabaz all apparent monsters quickly turn out to be paper tigers. The game seems designed for very small children -- too small to cope with very much conflict in their fiction. I can't say how well it'd work for its target age, but there's a great deal that makes this translate poorly for adults.
I suspect that children’s literature is best written not by a doting parent -- someone who primarily wants a safe, clean, improving world for their children -- but a crazy uncle, someone who wants to entertain, inform, subvert.
There is a sort of tedious opening with a ton of hand-holding before it opens up to a wide world. I enjoyed the islands, especially the junk and dark islands.
I felt like the author was holding back a bit on some descriptions that could have been made biting and/or sad. But the sparseness was fun.
One of the last islands seemed like a big buildup to an anticlimax.
Overall, I have to say I enjoyed it, because I couldn't put it down, and couldn't wait all the next day to play more. So that's a good sign!
One thing that can seemingly lock you out of victory:
(Spoiler - click to show)The icefruit seed doesn't respawn correctly.
So I suggest that, to be safe, you save (Spoiler - click to show)before using it.
You'll know you did it right if (Spoiler - click to show)Something dramatic happens.
If you enjoyed The Lost Islands of Alabaz...
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