Reviews: Return to Mysterious Island
After her boat is destroyed in a storm, Mina is stranded on an uncharted and apparently uninhabited island where she discovers evidence that others, including Captain Nemo, have previously resided there
Developer: Kheops Studio
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure
Release Date: November 2004
Note: Originally published 17 November 2004
From a Timeless Story…
The Jules Verne classic Mysterious Island is a story of survival, determination, and mankind’s triumph against the challenges of nature. Five men escape a Confederate prison in a hot air balloon during the American Civil War. Caught in a fierce storm, they get carried into the Pacific Ocean and eventually find themselves trapped in a remote uncharted island. With no means to escape the island, the castaways rely on their resourcefulness and scientific knowledge to forge themselves a new life. Throughout the novel, the castaways receive help from an unknown source. This mysterious guardian is none other than Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. As the island is destroyed with a volcanic eruption at the end of the novel, Captain Nemo reveals himself and escorts the castaways to safety with his submarine Nautilus.
…To an Excellent Adventure Game
Return to Mysterious Island assumes that the island was never destroyed as described in Jules Verne’s novel. Many years after the departure of the original castaways, the island is still uncharted and seemingly uninhabited. On an ambitious journey to sail around the world, Mina is caught in a storm and gets stranded on the island. The game starts as Mina wakes up on the shore of the island. She is determined to get away, but first she will have to overcome the island and unlock its mysteries. Walking on the footsteps of the original castaways, it is up to the players to help Mina survive and understand Captain Nemo’s home.
Return to Mysterious Island makes a great sequel to the Jules Verne classic. Fans of the novel will be thrilled to explore famous locations from the book, like the Granite House and the windmill, not to mention the legendary submarine Nautilus. With her resourcefulness, resolve, and scientific aptitude, Mina could have easily been the protagonist in a Jules Verne novel. Mina even heals and tames a monkey, as do the characters in the novel. However, the game can easily appeal to those who know nothing about the story behind it. Return to Mysterious Island is about a young woman’s will to survive in a hostile environment. It is an adventure about overcoming challenges and finding the hope to carry on in a most unlikely place.
The Adventure Company delivers a very successful game with Return to Mysterious Island. The pre-rendered graphics are very impressive and inspiring. The island is full of interesting details and visual appeal. The music is pleasant and appropriate for the theme of the game. The mouse-based interface is simple and intuitive. The first-person view will be familiar to the players of games like Myst, The Crystal Key, or Atlantis: The Lost Tales. The puzzles are intelligent, fairly rich in variety, and fit logically into the story.
At the beginning of the game, Mina is weakened and hungry after her ordeals in the sea. Thus, the first task of the game is to help Mina regain her strength. The simple challenge of finding food and starting a fire on a deserted island is enough to reveal the beauty of Return to Mysterious Island. The players will have to be creative and make use of the objects along the beach to help Mina recover her energy. Once Mina is strong enough to explore the island, the players will be able to visit the locations from the novel, unravel the history of the island, and understand its inner workings. Creative thinking and careful observation will be required at every step. Players will have to reinvent simple tools and make use of the inventions of Captain Nemo and the five castaways to overcome the game’s challenges.
One of the most interesting features of Return to Mysterious Island is its approach to puzzle solutions. Many of the inventory-based puzzles in the game have more than one solution. Different item combinations can be used to create the same object. For instance, the player is not limited to the specific branch of a specific tree to create a fishing pole. This makes the item-related puzzles in Return to Mysterious Island far more logical than many other adventure games. Furthermore, the ability to use multiple items for the same purpose increases the likelihood of players finding the items they need to complete the game. However, this puzzle structure also means that players are likely to end up with a number of items they will never use throughout the game.
Players should be aware that going through Return to Mysterious Island does involve a certain amount of pixel hunting. Players can easily pass by certain locations without noticing all the significant items the first time around. However, this should be nothing new to experienced adventure players. Finding the items to solve the puzzles is merely part of the challenge in adventure games. Furthermore, the objects that can be picked up or interacted with are often in places that are not particularly difficult to spot. There are no especially obscure or unfair objects the players are required to find. It is doubtful that very many players will have to resort to dragging the mouse all over the screen.
The real challenge in Return to Mysterious Island is coming up with ways to combine the inventory items. The inventory interface features a construction area where players can combine one or more objects to create others. If a given combination only includes two objects, the new item is immediately created. If more than two items are required, the current state of the combination is stored until the player adds all the remaining objects to the mix. Some of the item combinations can be dismantled once they are created. Thus, the players can use many of the individual components for more than one purpose.
The game also contains a number of puzzles that are not inventory related. These challenges include decoding two passwords and rerouting electricity to a device by using various switches. While they are not exceptionally original, these puzzles do offer a break from the inventory-based challenges that are abundant throughout the game.
There are a small number of puzzles in Return to Mysterious Island where time is limited. However, the challenge is never unreasonable in these puzzles. Players can expect to solve all the time-based puzzles in their first attempt. If they fail, they simply may not have created the item required to solve the puzzle. Furthermore, players are not required to start over from a saved game if they cannot solve the puzzle within the allotted timeframe. The game automatically restarts one screen before the time-based puzzle so the players can immediately try again. Thus, the time constraints are far from being frustrating in Return to Mysterious Island. On the contrary, they arguably add excitement to the game.
Once healed and tamed, Mina’s animal companion Jep adds an interesting level of depth to the game. Mina can ask her monkey to retrieve items from locations she cannot reach on her own. Jep is also capable of using simple tools. Mina can equip him with various inventory items to solve various puzzles in the game.
Return to Mysterious Island features a bonus point system that challenges players to be creative. Players are awarded bonus points for collecting inventory items, combining existing items to create new objects, and solving puzzles. For every 100 points accumulated, bonus pictures are added to the image gallery section of the game. This gives players an incentive to discover all the alternate methods to overcome the game’s challenges.
The only shortcoming of Return to Mysterious Island is its length. While the game is not exceptionally short, it could have been longer. The adventure ends a little too abruptly and feels as though there should have been a little more to the game. Mina does discover the island’s secrets at the end of the game and the ending movie is appropriate even though it is predictable. However, additional playtime and several more locations to visit would have been nice. Of course players should also note that the game is available for only $14.99, which is a great bargain given the price of most new games. When many action games can be completed within six to eight hours, it is perhaps unfair to complain about the length of an adventure game that is offered at a very reasonable price.
The Adventure Company and Kheops have done a terrific job with Return to Mysterious Island. This is a solid adventure game with clever puzzles, beautiful graphics, and interesting locations. The idea of surviving on a deserted island far from civilization may not be a new theme, but it has been applied very successfully in this game. Return to Mysterious Island is a great way to rediscover a Jules Verne classic. If the idea of overcoming nature’s challenges, surviving in a forgotten land, and unlocking the mysteries of an exotic island interest you, do not miss this game.
The final grade is a well-deserved A.
Click here to Buy Now or Download a Free Trial from the Just Adventure Shop
• Windows® 98/ME/2000/XP
• 600 MHz Pentium® III or Equivalent (800 MHz Recommended)
• 16x CD-ROM Drive (24x CD-ROM Drive Recommended)
• 64 MB DirectX® Compatible 3D Video Card
• DirectX® 7 Compatible Sound Card
• 64 MB RAM