Return to Mysterious Island in Review – One Hot Adventure

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There is nothing worse than realising that you forgot something. When my eyes started to go bad around age 12, I often forgot my glasses which I hadn’t yet registered as a need. It wasn’t long till I felt naked without them. I have felt the same about my Casio Calculator watches and later, even about my mobile phone. But Mina, Return to Mysterious Island‘s stalwart heroine faces much bigger challenges as she is shipwrecked with barely her skin on a less than friendly island in the Pacific Ocean.

Starving, alone and about to face many, many challenges, Mina is in a precarious state that balances on the edge of survival and a creeping sense of horror as she discovers more about the island made famous by Jules Verne.

If you are stuck, check out Tetraedge’s excellent walkthrough.

Gameplay and Presentation
Tetraedge’s iPhone port is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful games on the platform. Despite featuring very few moving textures, sprites or effects, it is lush with beautifully rendered and realistic scenery. Each scene is viewed exactly as it would appear from Mina’s eyes and is visible in 360 degrees and vertically from her feet to the sky. At times, 3D rendered objects like fish and water make their appearance and can slow the iPhone down to a choppy rendition, but generally, panning around scenes is smooth and effortless and lures the player into a very believable environment.

RTMI’s interface is clean, usable and very simple. Press the ‘plus’ sign and you get the level load screen and a command to return you to the main menu. The game will automatically save as you progress through the island so that if you need to suddenly exit, you will return exactly to your last place of play upon continuation. From the main menu, you can choose movement and sound options and also, to load a level.

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The entire RTMI interface from the menu to gameplay is touch-based. To interact with an item, you touch it and when in inventory mode, you drag an item to another item to combine it with another. You can make special cutting implements, fire starters, salves and many other needed tools. In fact, much of the game revolves around finding items that can be used to solve puzzles. You can also break those items apart again by dropping them onto the spinning gear in your inventory. You will need to do this many times in the course of the game.

RTMI is very labour-intensive. The half-dead Mina must drag her bones up and down cliffs, logs, old buildings, jungles and swamps. She builds, finds new items and invents technology that MacGuyver would shake a stick at. You will find that to solve a certain puzzle, you may have to take Mina from the top of a tall cliff back to the very first scene on the map.

If you have patience and some practical intelligence, Return to Mysterious Island is intensely fun. The combination of futuristic items like Mina’s broken watch-phone and Verne’s historic sci-fi story background solidifies the the game as a pillar among adventures.

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Oversights
But, before we get too far in praise, RTMI suffers from a few set backs. The first may not cause too many of you to stumble, but for others, it may be significant. There are no ambient sounds in the jungle or on the beach, in the highlands or on the mountain. Actual sound effects are sporadically cast around the game and mainly follow the completion of a puzzle or quest. Likewise, there is an intense but static soundtrack throughout the game that could use some extra spice.

Issues
With conspicuously missing niceties out of the way, let’s approach RTMI’s biggest issue: a terrible inventory interface. While putting items into Mina’s hands involves just a drag and drop and returning them, a mere click, the inventory screen falls apart when you must travel multiple pages of her stuff. There is simply no way to do it safely. The button that allows you to go from one page to the next is unpredictable. You may want to go to the left page or the right and even swipe the button in that direction, but end up going the opposite way. This caused me to exit the game in frustration a few times after my inventory became heavier than 2 pages. RTMI also will lose items. When composite items are broken into their elements, sometimes individual objects disappear. Of course, getting them back may be impossible. I lost my lighter about 10 hours into the game, requiring a restart. Not fun.

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Conclusion
Without a doubt, the porting of RTMI to the iPhone was an inspired decision by Tetraedge. The 2004 PC hit re-awakened the point-and-click adventure genre with a compelling, superior product. And now, iPhone users get to taste the full iDevice tailored app. It is smart, fun and complicated. You will think, think and think for many puzzles and for others, immediately snap to their conclusions. There is a deep and engaging storyline with many twists and the pedigree of Verne’s genius. Likewise, the graphics are smoothly rendered and beautiful. With the addition of ambient sounds and a more varied soundtrack, RTMI could have been a Kiss. It also suffers from an inventory system that can prematurely and unforgivably end a game. Assuming that RTMI will be fixed in upcoming updates, I am confident in returning Tetraedge’s prodigious effort a ‘Grab‘ from TouchMyApps.

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App Summary
Title:Return to Mysterious Island (V 1.0)Developer:Seller: Chillingo

Dev: Tetraedge Games

Price:$4.99App Size:263 MB
  • Great immersive graphics
  • Amazing Storyline
  • Fun but difficult puzzles
  • Large Gameworld
  • Satisfies the explorer
  • A touch of horror and humour
  • No ambient sounds; static soundtrack
  • Inventory interface is bad
  • Items get lost :(

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