Return to Mysterious Island Review

It's a mystery why we've returned!

Review by Rob Edmondson
Published 17th February 2004

Return to Mysterious Island

  • Developer: Kheops Studio
  • Publisher: The Adventure Company
  • Release Date: 18th February 2004

There is a general opinion among many publications that point and click adventure games have had their day. I however, strongly disagree with this. True, they enjoyed their success primarily in the early to mid 90s when the graphical capabilities of the PC weren’t sufficient to produce quality graphics for other game formats in which the backdrop actually moved, but they will always appeal to a niche, quieter corner of the market that dislike the frantic nature of many of today’s games. Often modern adventure games get unfairly poor write-ups from many major review sources, most notably the recent Syberia double, regarded as classics by many. The general thesis behind these reviews is usually ‘Who would want to play a game in which you move from one static screen to another interacting with set objects?’ which bodes the question, ‘Why was this person reviewing an adventure game in the first place?’ seeing as he/she is clearly not a fan of the genre anyway. Therefore I feel it is important to analyse these games for their own merits, while making it clear that they will mainly appeal to the quieter gamer rather than the more common adrenaline junkie.

Return to Mysterious Island is loosely based on Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island”, a book, which I can’t, unfortunately, claim to have read. Having played the game however, I can safely say that familiarity with the book is definitely unessential and the game’s story line is, for the most part, independent. It involves Mina, a young sailor who is attempting to traverse around the world single-handedly. Unfortunately for her though her boat is wrecked by a particularly violent storm and she is washed up on a strange island. Her goal is to first ensure her survival and then to work out a way to contact the outside world in a very Robinson Crusoe-esque fashion.

Return to Mysterious Island uses the tried and tested node-to-node system of movement. For the uninitiated this involves no actual free movement, such as in a FPS, but a requirement to move directly from one “node” on the island to another. While in these nodes you can still look around 360° and interact with any nearby objects. This system works best for adventure games as it reduces the likelihood of missing crucial objects and enables the developers to include fabulous looking backdrops.

Return to Mysterious Island’s puzzles really stand out. With most adventure games following a very linear path whereby most problems can only be solved by one method, Return to Mysterious Island makes an exception, with various solutions in many cases. This is an inspired move and removes a lot of the frustrating ‘What the hell do I do next?’ moments common to titles of this ilk. It also adds a strong element of replay-ability as each solution scores you a different amount of points, giving you the incentive to discover the optimum path to complete the game.

In most adventure titles you have the ability to combine certain items in your inventory to make new, more useful ones, but never, to the best of my knowledge, to the same extent used here. Practically everything you pick up has to be mixed with another item before it can be used, encouraging logical thinking. These combinations can also often be broken up again forcing you to concentrate on all of the resources at your disposal at all times. A phone and a diary are available to you as well. The phone is used mainly to receive news stories as they break and the diary is filled in by Mina and offers her views as she progresses through the quest.

Graphically Return to Mysterious Island is excellent as one would expect, with the lush rainforests and spooky caves rendered very well. There is also a lot going on in the background with tropical insects buzzing around you and small lizards often poking their heads out. The only criticism I could possibly levy is that the vegetation can look a bit static, but seeing as the weather is warm and calm throughout, the developers have largely sidestepped this area. Another point to note is how clear all the important details are, meaning the user can allocate more time to the solving of the puzzles rather than finding them.

Apart from the menu there is little music in Return to Mysterious Island as it prefers to leave you to explore the island in relative peace. The background sounds are very pleasant though and encourage a relaxed pace to the game. After all who would want to rush on a dream tropical island?

Return to Mysterious Island is not far from the best adventure game I have played. The peaceful surroundings and varied solutions to the puzzles mean you could begin to wish you were actually stranded there yourself! The points system adds some welcome extra life to the game as well with unlockable artwork as a reward for high scores. This really is a must buy for any adventure fan and recommended for anyone else who wants to take a break from the rough and tumble of everyday life.

Review Score: 8.2/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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