Return to Mysterious Island PC CD-ROM
by The Adventure Company
Developed by Kheops
Release Date: 25th February 2005 (UK)
Price : £19.99
It's been pleasantly surprising to see so many adventure games being released this year. The adventure genre has often been termed as a dying genre but the truth is that there are adventure games out there if you are willing to look for them. Of course a quick browse of The Adventure Company's website will reveal that adventure games are continually being released. It's just that until recently not many of them were arriving here in the UK. Thankfully though this does seem to have been rectified this year. One of the next adventure games to arrive here in the UK will be Return to Mysterious Island.
Return to Mysterious Island has been influenced by (but doesn't really have anything to do with) Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island. You'll play a young woman named Mina who, whilst on an individual around the world sailing expedition, became caught in a terrible storm and was shipwrecked on what appears to be an uninhabited tropical island. The only thing you have is your mobile phone and that's low on power. The game begins with Mina in a fairly weak state and your first task will be to find food and recover Mina's strength. Whilst initially Mina thinks she's on her own, this isn't entirely true and before long she'll befriend a chimpanzee named Jep and she'll also have encounter the ghost of Captain Nemo. It's a strange tale to be sure but it makes for an enjoyable adventure game.
If you're a veteran adventure gamer like myself you'll recall how combining items that you had in your inventory was essential to successfully completing the game. In recent times of course such practice has all but been done away with in favour of simplifying adventure games. If you've missed having to combine your inventory items in order to find solutions to puzzles then you'll be in for a treat with Return to Mysterious Island. In fact combining inventory items has never been such a large part of an adventure game. Some of the various puzzles you'll come across in the game have multiple solutions and your solution will usually depend on how you combine the items that you collect. Unlike other adventure games you can disassemble items that have have been combined, so this always leaves your options open. When you combine two items, a kind of mathematic sum appears at the bottom of the screen. If something else needs to be added you'll see a question mark in it's place. It will look kind of like this, item a + item b + ? = ?. You could argue that an over reliance on combining items bogs the game down a bit and you'd probably be right. Personally I think there's too much mixing of chemicals and that sometimes the combinations don't appear to make sense but overall it's enjoyable.
Mina does a good job of surviving life on a tropical island but before long you'll realise that she needs help and it's here the game starts to take liberties with realism. You'll befriend a a chimp named Jep who will first have to be healed. From here on in the game goes a little crazy as Jep will do some amazing things. Give him a rope ladder and he'll take it across a chasm and secure the other side for you allowing you to cross on the rope ladder. Give him a present to give to another animal and he'll do it. For an animal you've just met he's surprisingly obedient and does some wondrous things.
Kheops did a good job with Egypt 3 and it looked great. Thankfully they've also made Return to Mysterious Island look good too and it doesn't even require a high specification PC. The game uses pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D animated characters and it looks very nice indeed. Moving around is in a similar style to the Myst games where you click to move forward and then instantly move from one location to another. You do have the ability to 'mouse look' through 360 degrees though which helps you to explore things. The interface is generally well laid out but one complaint I do have is the inventory screen. Because you collect so many items you have several tabbed inventory boxes that will store the glut of items. The thing is though it can be hard work keeping your inventory under control. A button to automatically tidy your items or to sort out the combined items is sorely needed and would have prevented you from having to click through a variety of screens to get what you want.
Return to Mysterious Island is almost completely deaf gamer friendly. The cutscenes and conversations are subtitled so you'll have no problem in following the game's story which is highly important in an adventure game. Later in the game Mina will have her phone charged up and ready to use. As a result her phone will ring but this ringing sound is not shown visually. When you enter the inventory screen you'll see the flashing icon but if you don't go to the inventory screen you'll be unaware of the ringing phone. This doesn't really matter though as the same phone call from Mina's mother happens about 3 times (must be a bug) and doesn't tell you anything apart from the fact that you can receive phone signals but can't send them out again. In every other way though the game's fine. Your objectives are shown in text (they can be recalled) and the verbal information on the Picture Gallery is shown in text.
Kheops have once again come up with a quality adventure game. We enjoyed Egypt III and it's been enjoyable to play Return to Mysterious Island. One of the problems with Egypt III was it's length and whilst Return to Mysterious Island isn't as short it would have been great if it had been a bit longer. The reliance on combining items gets a bit too much at times and some combinations seem to rely on a sound knowledge of chemistry (or are purely fantastical) but for the most part the combinations are fairly logical. As I write this review the UK release date has been pushed back until February 2005, which is probably to avoid the glut of software titles that arrive in time for Christmas. Still if you're looking for an enjoyable adventure game in the early part of next year Return to Mysterious Island should more than fit the bill.
Game Rating: 8.0/10
Combining inventory items has never played such an important part in an adventure game. Fans of adventure games should appreciate what Return to Mysterious Island has to offer.
No captions for Mina's phone (when it rings) but otherwise the game is fine.