Stranded! in Review – Find out what Robinson Crusoe felt like!

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Robinson Crusoe is one of my favourite books of all time. It’s a tale of a shipwrecked man, who survived only thanks to his wit and skill is apparently loved by a lot of other folks as well. Numerous movie reinterpretations of the theme have been made and now, finally, you can find out how it would feel like being shipwrecked on an island on your very own iPhone/iPod Touch!

In Stranded!, you find yourself space-shipwrecked on a small island with no food or water. You have only your hands and wit to survive and must find a way to call for help! Stranded! is an adventure game with a sprinkle of role-playing thrown in. By the way, the game is advertised as set in the Space HoRSE universe (whatever that is). But don’t expect to find any indications of this, apart from the fact that you’re required to build a “space” radio to get rescued.

The game mechanics are simple. You go around the island, search for basic components and use them to construct accessories to help you survive while keeping yourself fed, thirst quenched and healthy. The idea is a really good one. At first your only way of  staying alive is by collecting coconuts and eating and drinking them. After some development however, you can collect the morning dew, distill salt water and use traps to catch wild boars, thus solving all of your survival issues.

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The game offers several basic resources that can be found on the island itself. They include small boulder and rock, dry grass and sticks as well as zinc and copper. The first thing to build would be a sharp rock, followed by a spear and a hammer. You can collect other stuff from the island vegetation, including lemons (to make lemonade or a battery), palm leaves, coconuts and reeds to make twine. With all of this you can make more advanced items to ease your life on the island. I don’t know, whether it is good or bad, but there is no room for experimenting. All the things you can create using your current inventory are listed in a special screen.

But even Einstein would have difficulty getting out from the island using just basic resources, so watch out for stuff from the shipwreck that gets washed ashore once each day. The most help will probably be the bucket, since it allows you to distill salt water over a fire and is an unlimited source of fresh water. And there’s the other things, including coat hangers, decoder chips and other junk that you will eventually have to compile into a receiver and transceiver to have yourself rescued. Finally there’s ham that can really be  a life saver in a tight pinch and provides you with a useful tin can and an enormous amount of bubble gum that, for some strange reason, is a decent way to quench your thirst.

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The interface is very minimalistic. The strandee follows your taps on the island made up of hexagonal cells. The parameters are indicated by bars in the top right corner and you replenish them by dragging food or water over them.  You have only 6 spots in your inventory to carry around stuff in, though it can be enlarged using hand-made pouches. Also keep in mind that liquids require containers to be carried around in, though seem to be perfectly happy on the ground. Also due to some strange reason, they don’t mix in the same container. The graphics in the game are not bad, with the day/night cycle fully realized.

The game starts out quite fun, with surviving being a constant challenge. The food and water bars deplete really quickly, forcing you not to waste any time in searching for ways to replenish them. The health bar on the other hand, takes a really long while to deplete, yet it restores surprisingly fast. I estimate you could last about 4-5 days with no food or water. But after you build up 3-4 boar traps and 3-4 dew catchers, you are completely set and are left with only wandering around the island in hopes that enough stuff will wash up on the shore to finally finish building that device to call out for help. This gets boring really soon, made even more frustrating by the enormous amounts of bubble gum being being washed ashore, coupled with a few bugs I ran into involving the containers somehow indicating they house more stuff than they should (the game crashes when trying to open them).

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Stranded! is a very good and novel concept. Unfortunately the lack of things to do after the initial surviving stage makes it unbearably boring later on. I would recommend the developers to add some more buildable items or, at least, tweak the random generators to make items wash ashore more often. Other than that, it is a decent game and a very promising concept, which the developers will hopefully build on. Currently, I would say it is more of $0.99 app than a $1.99 though.

With this I declare Stranded! officially touched.

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App Summary
Title:Stranded! (v.1.0)Developer:Gilligames
Price:$1.99App Size:5.5 MB
  • Great concept
  • Nice graphics
  • Good tutorial
  • Gets boring very quickly after the initial challenge is gone
  • Screwed up on bubble gum random generator
  • Minor container-related bugs

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