The developers were probably watching Lost when they came up with the idea for The Island: Castaway. The game’s main male character bears a striking likeness to one Jack Shepard. But while the characters and the Island theme might be familiar, Castaway doesn’t quite provide the same level of mystery as the confusing TV show.
The plot is explained in a short pre-game cut scene, with crew and passengers of a boat involved in an accident which sees them shipwrecked on a desert island. Players take control of Tom Allison, the first character to wake and one you’ll be getting to know pretty well by the end of the game. Other survivors soon turn up and it’s clear they all have a purpose and a special skill to be utilised.
Characters all come from the cut-out stereotype box of people and are therefore somewhat cringe worthy. A Native American takes charge of teaching Tom how to make a boat and telling him how to fish, a young ship’s cook handles recipes and the female characters request luxury items and flirt with Tom. The voice acting and script don’t help matters, there are some terrible conversations that made me wince at times, but it’s no worse that daytime TV soaps and it does improve as you play.
Tom guides the group in a bid to survive and then find a way to escape the island by interacting with each character. One will ask for a certain type of food, another will require logs to build a raft. All of these tasks require a fetch quest that will see Tom scouring the island for food and materials and meeting the island’s inhabitants and wildlife.
Hunting boar, killing snakes and picking fruit are all pretty straight forward when you have the tools, there’s even a spot of fishing. Holding these all together is the central plot involving survival and escape and Tom’s ever depleting energy, which has to be kept topped up by eating food.
The main issue with The Island: Castaway is that it never goes beyond the simple fetch quest idea and there is no real sense of danger. Get hit by a charging boar? Eat some food to build your strength up. Bitten by a snake? Eat some food again. Even if you pass out, you’ll find yourself back on the first island, ready and waiting to trek on back over to the other side.
Hunting, fishing and crab catching do offer some of the more entertaining tasks in the game, slow paced as they are. Each has a purpose, too , and the game does at least task you with finding ingredients to cook with before you can consume your catch. Bartering with the natives will also provide you with a far easier way to gain these items, assuming you have enough pearls, the island’s currency, gained from picking shells on the beach or preparing food and selling goods.
Ultimately, though, another fetch quest will appear as one of the characters requires something that can only be found on the other side of the island and so a trek over to pick up the goods, kill the creatures or complete the task is needed.
While all this may seem a tad repetitive, the graphics and story do help to push you onward. I found myself wondering just how the survivors would get off the island, or even if they might actually end up staying instead. Characters are well designed and a larger image of each appears when they talk, constantly providing small nuggets of information about themselves or moving the plot ever forward.
Throwing in a sub-plot involving strange markings appearing and lost idols gives The Island: Castaway a much needed air of mystery beyond the survival theme. I felt myself wanting to know more about where this was heading and kept coming back after quests to find out if the story of these mysterious events would take another strange turn.
For those who love mini tasks, collecting missions and don’t mind a more casual take on adventure games with little in the way of taxing puzzles, The Island: Castaway will happily entertain you for hours. Those gamers looking for something with a little more challenge may find this game lacking. That said, the initial game is free and it's worth visiting the island at least once.
- Sound: 7
- Graphics: 8
- Gameplay: 7
- Longevity: 6
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