Note: You must be 18 to play Improbable Island, hence the rating-r content rating. The actual content is much more tame. It's almost pure text, and the vast majority of it safe for all ages. Still, it's probably best if you lock the kids out of the room while you play.
What is Improbable Island? It's a game in which, over the course of a single game day, you can pet some kittens, visit a kissing booth, smoke a cigarette, eat steak, be killed by Stonehenge, fight in ten cage matches to earn favor, pay your way off the Failboat with that favor, fail to be eaten by a grue, kill your past self, defeat the Undefeatable Monster, buy a chainsaw, visit an abandoned factory, die again, pay your way off the Failboat again, drink from a stream and become more charming, defeat your master in honorable combat, search five laboratories so that you can have tea with Horatio Entwhistle, win the game, and be reincarnated as a zombie so you can start it all over again. And that's a fairly ordinary way to end your first trip.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Improbable Island is a browser-based multiplayer RPG, consisting almost entirely of text. Almost all of it quite funny. Like most of the online RPG genre, you have a limited amount of stuff that you can do per game day. Unlike the standard "turns", Improbable Island gives you "stamina", which is somewhat more flexible. It starts at 100% and will immediately be adjusted up and down by various factors. Once you get started, you can increase your stamina by eating food, provided you're still hungry. There are also a number of things which will randomly adjust your stamina up or down. Further, unlike turns, stamina is not a hard-and-fast limit to the number of actions you can do. At 60%, you start to get tired, progressively becoming weaker in combat. At 20%, you're so exhausted that you can pass out and be sent to the Failboat instantly.
Oooh, new day. Hang on, I'll be right back.
Okay, where was I? Ah, right, new days. There's one every four hours, for a total of six per day. Whenever one passes, your stamina and health refill, you get hungry again, and your bank account gains interest. It's okay to miss a few, though, because any turn you miss completely becomes a Chronosphere, which can be activated later to get a new day instantly. You can only carry two (unless you donate or refer people), and you start with two of them, so you should be able to play for a while before you need to wait at all.
As with any RPG, the standard loop is simple. Kill stuff to get experience and money. Trade experience for levels and money for equipment, both of which make you stronger. Go back out and kill bigger stuff to get more experience and money, and so on. When you reach level 15, you'll be able to do what you came to: kill the Improbability Drive. Wander around to each of the game's eight cities, searching its jungle's lab for the drive, until you find it. Kill the drive, and the game's over.
Well, sort of. Actually, it's not really over at all, it's just beginning. After you kill the drive, you are reincarnated as an L1 character again, but you've unlocked a little more stuff to play with, including two new races. Each time you kill the drive, you'll unlock more stuff, and it takes at least 12 Drive Kills or DKs to unlock all of it. Probably more.
Analysis: Improbable Island is a blast. It's jam-packed with references for everything from "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" to "Sesame Street" to its own insanity. Even if you don't find it outright funny, you will still get a smile from the sheer craziness of it all. This is Improbable Island, where running into forgotten food from your refrigerator is a fairly mundane battle.
The donation system is about what you'd expect: pay for donator points, then use the points to buy currency, extra game days, or random perks like changing the color of your name. It's easy for that kind of system to get out of hand and become unfair, but II seems to have balanced it about right. As a donor, I may get to play more, but since requisition resets every time I kill the drive, cigs are expensive, and there's no real way for me to harm other players anyway, it all works out in the end.
For those of you who may be feeling a bit stingy about paying for a web game (and face it, we've all been there), worry not! Due to circumstances beyond the author's control, Improbable Island is going non-profit for a few months. PayPal donations will be routed through internet-famous people to deserving charities (who, sadly, don't have a PayPal account to donate directly to). So far, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics has agreed to ferry donations to Doctors Without Borders. So go ahead and donate; it's for a good cause!
Improbable Island is downright addictive. The biggest problem with it is that you can get lost in leveling your character and forget to read the descriptions. Combat is solid, if a bit excessively random, and the DK-unlocked content will keep new stuff coming for days if not weeks. Whether you want to play casually or prefer a harder challenge, II has you covered: after each DK, you get to choose the difficulty rank for the next one. And if you choose too high, never fear, because the Failboat will let you reduce your rank any time you die.
Actually, I've changed my mind. The biggest problem with Improbable Island is that it will suck your time away. I've been playing it for a week and a half straight, and gotten almost nothing done. I'm pretty sure I've dreamed about this game once or twice. But I'm not addicted, honestly! I can stop at any time! Just let me play one more turn, honest, I just need to see if anyone's applied to The Casual Followers of Jay, and then I'll stop!
C'mon, buddy, you know you want to try it. First three turns are on me.