Saturday, March 25, 2017

Mysterious Island - The Friday FREE GAME Feature!


A hybrid of RPG and survival with impressive AI and charming characters!

Mysterious Island is an adventure RPG available free for a very limited time over at itch.io. You play as a band of colorful characters stranded on an island after their ship crashed. Exploring the island, you discover a mix of inhabitants - from friendly talking totems and helpful natives to dangerous animals and monsters led by an evil witch. Your goal is to build a raft so you can sail home, which means facing the island's dangers that stand in your way.



There's a lot about this game that I absolutely love. The characters have amusing idle animations and the art style is colorful and charming. While the game has combat, it's light on violence and overall has a kid-friendly theme. While at the core an RPG, it's also heavy on survival crafting. Your party members sport an impressive AI that significantly lowers the amount of micro-managing often seen in games with multiple characters. Your teammates equip the best weapon they have as they enter battle, loot and forage nearby items and craft supplies automatically when you make camp. Some tend to prioritize supplies over their own well-being and will go off to harvest and craft even if you recently asked them to rest (which can be a bit frustrating).

Resting (camping) is important as your party members each have their own hunger and energy levels to manage. Characters gain levels as per most RPGs, and there's even an extensive list of skills that improve as a character continues using the skill.

The best way I can explain this game is to mix Summoner, Don't Starve and The Sims together, then throw in a dash of Winnie the Pooh for character design influence. Frankly, I'm really impressed with how well it all comes together... when it works.

You see, the problem with Mysterious Island is that it's plagued with bugs. In the 4 hours I played during the stream, it crashed 4-5 times - sometimes so badly it locked up my PC entirely for a minute or so and required killing processes in Task Manager. There's also a memory leak somewhere, as the game gave me a custom memory warning when trying to save once. While I have other complaints (that I'll mention below for sake of completeness), they're minor compared to these glaring issues that make the game nearly unplayable.

There's something funky going on with a lot of the "fluff" textures for things like foliage and particle effects, as if their backgrounds aren't transparent. The click-to-move scheme and an annoying camera made the game fairly frustrating to play, and it wasn't clear where you could go when exploring terrain of varying elevations (i.e. what's a step and what's a barrier). The status bars under each character weren't labeled, and vague icons kept appearing over party members to indicate something was up, though it was impossible to understand what they needed. I also accidentally cheesed the sea monster boss by shooting at it before talking to it - he was too busy going through his dialogue animations to realize he should probably fight back as my party assailed him at range.

Mysterious Island combines several of my favorite genres in a compelling way, but tragically has game-breaking bugs that keep it from being enjoyable (and perhaps even playable). It definitely caught me by surprise though - I certainly didn't expect this title to end up being the game I wanted to love, but couldn't.

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