Jules Verne’s Secrets of the Mysterious Island in Review – Monkey business

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I ain’t monkeying around: Secrets of the Mysterious Island (SOTMI) in many ways is a better game than its predecessor and thanks to its adventure-devout dev team, makes great use of the iPhone hardware. It also introduces the sort of fast user-switching made famous by Beneath a Steel Sky but heels on a vast, explorative engine. To really understand all of its goodness, you need time, a comfortable seat, and some persuasion because this is a big, engrossing game.

We posted a walkthrough for SOTMI earlier – you may need it ;) .

Something in the back of my mind is telling me not to start on a low note, but I am drawn like H1N1 to crowded areas and will infect the start of this review with first-class criticism. After finally snagging a rescue ‘copter, Mina and Jeb are whisked away only to be ‘shot’ down by volcanic eruption and turnstiled deja vu-like back to the island to await rescue. Not again. Like watching a hero walk down the wrong hallway, SOTMI’s writers fall into the trap of of their own clever devising. In a nutshell, Secret’s storyline isn’t first-rate as its predecessor was, but other than a few eyebrow scrunchers, it is sort of par for the genre. Oh yes, and I for one vote to rename this game to ‘Return again to Return to the Mysterious Island” – what do you think?

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Secrets of Mysterious Island is full of the same sort of gaming as its predecessor, only better. Firstly, the graphic engine has been tweaked enough that the game never gets too choppy, and yes, it looks fab. In Return to Mysterious Island, any 3D object: fish, birds, etc., – caused the iDevice to crawl. Clearly, the dev team learned a lot since then. The view is still the same: 360 degrees which is viewable by dragging your finger around the screen in any direction. For f’oldies like me, there is even an inverted y-axis control scheme. Everything else is controlled by tapping objects and there is plenty to interact with. Sounds good right? Well, actually sounds are still generally static, and unfortunately, the music doesn’t change often enough. RTMI got a slight musical makeover, but SOTMI needs something – it really needs something.

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In fact, SOTMI is littered with objects – enough to make your head spin. The cog icon means that an object can be interacted with, and the hand denotes that it can be picked up. Besides walking around, the rest is intricate and tricky. You will have to combine multiple items in order to complete simple tasks, but unlike the first game, you have limitations. As Mina, you are defter and (sort of) cleverer, but Jep steals the show. He isn’t limited to walking around everywhere; he can climb, scale, and loop himself all over the map. But, though Jep can perform surgery (yep, that’s Jep), he cannot combine objects.

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You will have to be careful. In 1.0, items randomly disappear when separated into their component parts. But, nearly everything you pick up (besides resources such as grass and clay) is useful at some point in the game. There are also a number of mini-games which you will encounter: like fishing, the collecting of moving objects, etc.. They are fun, but detract a little from the adventure atmosphere. SOTMI features a similar inventory interface, but this time, with dedicated navigation buttons which make it a lot less frustrating. Here’s a warning though: don’t feed Jep things you think aren’t necessary – you will quickly learn that the opposite is true. This brings up my last point.

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There is only one save slot, and while automatic saving works great, it is superceded by the main save/load engine meaning that auto saves work more like checkpoints than anything. But, if you make a mistake and use an item which later becomes necessary, you will have to get used to going back to checkpoints. Saying that, Secrets of the Mysterious Island is hard – very hard. Puzzles aren’t a choice between left and right, and at times, seem illogical. You will need the included online walkthrough, the problem is that you have to interrupt gameplay in order to access it, making it nearly useless. Fortunately, TMA got our hands on a nice PDF. But, that isn’t a criticism – it is a point to ponder. Those who open games like speeches will love this game play as there is _simply so much to uncover_, albeit at a slow and measured pace.

And finally, whereas the Return to Mysterious Island is now 2.99$, Secrets of the Mysterious Island debuts at 6.99$. Both are amazing games, but despite their parentage, they have different markets. Secrets is a more impressive game. It adventures, it minigames, and it does it all smoothly without the hiccups of the first game. However, its story is meh, and at times, it loses focus. Hardcore adventure fans will love and loath parts of it, but ultimately walk away having played a great game. Adventure nibblers will have a harder time getting into this jungle of a game which sucks you in. Because of the gameplay tweaks, I enjoy Secrets of the Mysterious Island more than its predecessor, but its story and sometimes silly mini-games turn a cold shoulder to my adventurous side. Still, I am happy that Mina returned _again_ to the Mysterious Island.

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App Summary
Title:Jules Verne’s Secrets of Mysterious Island (v 1.0)Developer:Chillingo
Price:$6.99App Size:704 MB
  • Great interface and controls
  • Tip top graphics
  • Finally, a good inventory!
  • Brain-teasing puzzles
  • Story is ‘meh’
  • Sound is ‘meh’
  • Ultima 7-esque item disappearances!

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TMA simply can’t do without adventure games, and I assume that you too are like us. Perhaps the below articles can help you out.
Myst in Review – Save Our Souls Episode 1 in Review – Beneath a Steel Sky Remastered in Review –  Raving Manor in Review — Mystery Mania in Review — Return to Mysterious Island in Review

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