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Isoland in Review – We Got Shipwrecks, Pyramids AND Aliens

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The adventure game landscape seems to be leaning heavily towards hidden object games or room escape style game play, so I’m always thrilled to see what I consider to be a more traditional style of adventure game. It’s even better when that game is actually fun to play, and Isoland certainly kept me going until the very end… when I was thrown a bit of a curveball. I’m not really happy with how the game ended, which I’ll explain later in a bit of a spoiler-y way (I don’t know how else to do it), but despite that I still think Isoland is definitely an adventure worth the asking price and probably more.

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In what is now a way too cliché trope, you are summoned to your mysterious location – in this case an island – by a letter from a friend. Of course you go, because otherwise there wouldn’t be much of an adventure, now would there? What you discover is a tale of shipwrecked men, beasts of the sea and beings from outer space? At times it feels a bit like the TV show Lost, where they seem to throw things in just for the sake of either having a “deeper” story or trying to confuse you just a tad. That’s even more evident in the ending, which (and here’s the minor spoiler) isn’t truly revealed until you play the game through twice. This would have been a much more satisfactory gimmick if (1) the ending made sense, and (2) there was more deviation in game play the second time around. There were some additional puzzles and rooms that were interesting in the second pass, though, so I’ll cut them some slack.

The game itself is comprised of what you’d expect from a traditional adventure game. You explore various locations, collect items to solve object based puzzles and sometimes intentionally solve but other times blindly stumble into the solution for logic based puzzles. In all fairness, all of the mini-games could probably be reasoned out, but I’m not always a patient person when it comes to that sort of thing. There wasn’t really anything that stuck out as particularly new in terms of puzzles, but everything was solidly put together and for the most part pretty fair. I will confess that I succumbed to the pull of a walkthrough for a couple of minor hints, but seasoned adventurers shouldn’t have too much trouble getting through everything without peeking like I did. One thing I really appreciated about this game was that it actually had NPCs to talk to. That’s something that’s sadly missing from basically every escape game as well as many traditional adventure games these days, yet that was always one of the best parts of the old games from folks like Sierra Online and LucasArts.

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Graphically the game is a weird cross between a highly skilled kid’s art and a PBS cartoon. Of course much of the charm of Isoland comes from these visuals, and I really like the design choice. Everything is nicely detailed within the confines of the graphical look, and there is enough animation that it never feels too stiff. The sound effects are decent, with solid ambiance in the form of a rainstorm. Rather than voices the characters “speak” with some sort of gibberish which I suppose cuts down on the cost and storage space of voice acting. For the limited times you communicate with other folks it’s a tolerable choice, but it would definitely get old if the game were longer. I love the music, but sometimes it feels more like it is driving the atmosphere of the game instead of enhancing it. I just don’t think the whole thing is quite as mysterious as the music would lead you to believe.

If you’ve been having trouble deciding whether or not you should check out this game just do it, especially if you like adventure games. At the time of this writing the game was less than the cost of a cup of coffee just about anywhere except the local watering hole that offers a senior citizen’s discount, and even though you have to play through the game twice to get the full effect it’s worth it. I actually started a third stroll across the island to listen to the music and sound effects again, and surprisingly it still hasn’t gotten boring. If this freshman outing is any indication, we might have another Fire Maple Games on our hands.

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App Summary
Title: IsolandDeveloper: RedFish Game Studio
Reviewed Ver:1.02Min OS Req: iOS 6.0
Price:$0.99App Size:369.56MB
  • Interesting story with actual NPCs to talk to
  • Plenty of object puzzles and mini-games
  • Well written soundtrack
  • Had to play through twice for full story
  • Didn’t quite get the ending

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