Dave Heinemann

Game Impressions: Improbable Island

Most of my free time these days is spent motorcycling. The rest is spent watching bad movies1. But every once and a while, a video game will grab my attention and pull me away from my other hobbies.

Most recently, that game is Improbable Island.

Improbable Island is a Persistent Browser Based Game (PBBG)—a genre of text-based games played inside the web browser. They're kind of like MUDs, but are played using a mouse instead of typing commands.

This post isn't so much a review as an opportunity to highlight some of the cool things I love about Improbable Island, and encourage others to check it out. Especially if you've never tried a PBBG before—this one is a great place to start.

What I Love

I usually get bored of PBBGs very quickly, but not only have I been regularly playing Improbable Island for hours, it's actually the first PBBG I've ever beaten. That's a milestone! I'm already on my way to beating it a second time.

There are a lot of things I enjoy about Improbable Island that keep me coming back.


Since getting dial-up Internet as a kid circa 2003, I've played far more PBBGs than I could ever hope to remember.

But what I do recall is that nearly all of them would artificially restrict your playtime. They'd usually give you a limited number of "actions" per 12 or 24 hours of real time to prevent you from playing too much and progressing too quickly.

This limited action economy creates two problems:

As a PBBG, Improbable Island has similar limitations. However, they're implemented in a way that solves those shortcomings.

First, each game day lasts just four hours of real time. They go by so quickly that you don't feel pressured to use them.

Second, unused game days can be saved up to redeem later, when you have time to play for an extended period.

Finally, instead of a set number of actions per day, you have a massive stamina pool. Each action costs a certain number of stamina points, which decrease as your character's skills grow. This allows you to do more things per game day than other PBBGs I've played.

These features give me the freedom to play Improbable Island at my own pace, when I want, and for as long as I want.

Code of Conduct

Improbable Island's inclusivity is first-class. Its extremely detailed Code of Conduct (CoC) thoroughly outlines the expectations for players, and makes it clear that bigotry isn't welcome.

Some people won't like that, or may object to the idea of having a CoC in the first place—especially one this long2. However, the CoC is what convinced me to try Improbable Island in the first place. I was on the fence about giving it a shot3, but I was impressed with the developer's thoughtfulness as I read the CoC. It sounded like a community that I'd enjoy being part of, so I gave the game a crack4.

Read the CoC for yourself and you'll know whether or not this is a game for you.


Improbable Island is hilariously absurd. If you like Monty Python-esque humour, this game will be right up your alley.

The game is ridiculous from the very premise: players are forcibly recruited into a reality TV show where they are dumped on the titular Improbable Island with nothing but their birthday suit. Their mission is to find and destroy the Improbability Drive, a device responsible for all manner of monsters and strange events on the island. All the while, their every move is broadcasted live on national television.

The writing is a blast. To see if it's for you, you can play through the prologue on the website's homepage without creating an account. Here's a small excerpt:

"WASN'T THAT AMAZING?!" shrieks the presenter, his wide-eyed enthusiasm a stark contrast to your own inert lumpitude, encased in an armchair that has become almost lethally comfortable.

You agree with the ridiculous man - that was amazing. The War on Improbability has been televised, of course. It's too bizarre and compelling not to. The soldiers are contestants on some kind of sick reality TV show - it's kind of like Big Brother, but instead of petty interpersonal drama, it's got chainsaw-chuks, and instead of the second law of thermodynamics, it's got lions.

The presenter's face fills the screen, cocaine-fueled, manic, veins popping on his forehead. He paints his skin bright orange and bleaches the enamel of his teeth to a blinding white, because he's fucking crazy. He screams that there's going to be a recap. The highlights reel starts - sub-second shots of people fighting nightmarish monsters, downing pints of beer with twigs in it, riding a naked old man around like a horse5, making out behind a bush, cat people, robots, mutants, all too quick to focus on.

The game has hundreds of different monster encounters, each with unique and original flavour text. Variety and novelty are critical when the core gameplay loop revolves around beating monsters over the skull, and Improbable Island delivers.

My favourite monster encounter so far was with a "herd" of crabs that turned out to be an elaborate L'Étranger joke6. I still chuckle thinking about it—this is the kind of unique experience that can only be achieved in textual games.

Mobile Phone Support

I don't use my desktop computer much these days, so I've been playing Improbable Island exclusively on my mobile phone, in Firefox for Android7. Good news: Improbable Island runs great.

This is impressive when you consider that it's nearly 20 years old—PBBGs from that era were only ever designed to run on desktop computers. This was clearly the case for Improbable Island too, but the developer has gone to great lengths to add a mobile-friendly interface.

While still a work-in-progress, it seems about 99% complete. There are only two pages I've encountered layout issues with: character customisation, and the overworld map. Those are rarely used, so it hasn't been big deal.

If you're looking for a PBBG that runs great on mobile phones, this is it.


You can beat Improbable Island in a few weeks of casual gameplay. After defeating the Improbability Drive, you restart at level 1 with the option of choosing a different class and difficulty level. Each time you restart, you forfeit most of your items and in-game currency, but you'll quickly accumulate them again. New playable classes and equipment are unlocked through successive wins.

This makes Improbable Island very replayable, if a bit repetitive. However, each class has something new to offer, and there are enough unique monster encounters, locations to visit, and other things to do that you won't have seen everything in your first playthrough.


Improbable Island is free to play! Can't beat that.

However, it barely seems to break even. It's clearly a passion project by one developer who has chosen to keep it as affordable as possible, and so microtransactions are available to offset the game's running cost. These confer little to no gameplay advantage over other players, as there's no PVP in Improbable Island. If anything, there's an in-game leaderboard—but I don't imagine it's taken very seriously in a non-competitive game like this.

If you enjoy the game, consider supporting it financially to keep it sustainable. I recommend buying long-term perks first, like Chronospheres. These let you store up the in-game days where you didn't play, and use them later—perfect if you feel like playing the game for several hours straight on the weekend.

A unique "monthly memento" is also made available for $10 USD each month. These collectible items range from interesting toys to mild gameplay benefits, and are a cool way to incentivise regular financial support.

Other Cool Features

Here are a handful of cool features and things I like.

Player-owned rooms: I'm not even close to being able to afford one yet, but you can buy your very own plot of land on the overworld to build anything you want. This can range from small houses to elaborate zones with custom code written using Improbable Island's own drag & drop programming interface.

Roleplaying: Improbable Island isn't what you could call roleplay intensive, but players are expected to speak in-character in the general chat channels. Separate out-of-character channels are also available.

If you enjoy roleplaying, then you can have a lot of fun in Improbable Island. If you don't enjoy it, you can easily just steer clear of the in-character channels. In fact, there's no requirement to engage with the community at all, and the whole game is easily enjoyed solo. That's how I primarily play.

Setting: This ties back in with the humour, but I've never seen a setting quite like Improbable Island. While it's mostly near-future science-fiction, it defies the usual tropes in a way that feels really fresh and interesting. Apart from some player-owned rooms, I haven't seen a single page that wasn't interesting and fun to read.

Overall, I highly recommend Improbable Island. Play for free and check it out. If you enjoy it, donate a few Dollars to help keep it sustainable. It's a real Internet gem.

You can also follow the author, Dan, on Mastodon.

Do you have any thoughts or feedback? Let me know via email!
  1. If I didn't do it, some other poor bloke would.↩

  2. It's 10,800 words long! Don't be daunted though, it's an entertaining read.↩

  3. Frankly, I don't need more video games to play.↩

  4. Incidentally, I've barely participated in the community at all, and I mostly play the game solo. More on this later.↩

  5. This will, in fact, be your first mount. It even has its own compelling storyline, but you'll need to be patient and wait for it to reveal itself to you.↩

  6. Herd of crabs; Crab-herdism; Absurdism—get it?↩

  7. The patrician's choice.↩

#Video Games