Isle of Spirits Review

Isle of Spirits is a survival game in which the player must explore the surrounding area, gathering the resources to build shelter, cook food and eventually escape from the island. There are numerous dangers to overcome; some are predictable, but others are quite unexpected and are only survivable through experience. There are only two possible outcomes: survive, or don’t! But if the character dies, the game always restarts on new island.

The block style landscape is simplistic, but it doesn’t detract from the appeal of the game. It actually helps the player to focus on the collectable items that are scattered around the island that must be found to survive. The character has 4 bars of life representing health, hunger, temperature and tiredness. If any of these run out, the health bar has a small amount of time before death so there is still some time to recover before losing everything. Restarting on a different island after failing to survive isn’t much of an issue early on, but it can be quite frustrating if it happens much further into the game. Especially when caused by a totally unpredictable event that could only have been prepared for by having previously experienced it.

With there being no instructions, the character just appears on the shoreline and the player must learn through trial and error, this indeed adds to the experience of becoming stranded. Maybe adding some optional hints might help new players to get to grips with the game without feeling too frustrated early on. It is a bit of a steep learning curve to survive at the beginning which could certainly put some players off before they’ve really made enough progress to fully experience or appreciate the game.

The idea is that the islands spirits are trying to inhibit escape is unique, and although at first it was somewhat terrifying, it certainly enhances survival instinct. It could share a likeness with the insanity one might experience from being stranded alone on an real island.

The concept is that the game will be enjoyable to replay due to the procedurally generated islands. Perhaps it is just my own perspective but this doesn’t add any appeal because every island is round in shape with varying ground levels and appears to have everything needed to survive, so there actually is hardly any difference between them. With no further development of equipment or anything new to discover, there appears to be very little incentive to replay once the game has been completed.

If there was some character customisation available it could create a stronger connection between the player and their experience of the game making it it much more interactive. If the menu had different levels of difficulty to choose from such as islands with more extreme weather or with fewer resources available, it would be more interesting and appealing to replay. Although keeping supplies simple might seem like a more realistic choice when creating a survival game, it might be more enjoyable to be able to customise the room, such as being able to simply extend it or upgrade with supplies gathered from the beach as it sort of begins to feel more like a prison during the cold winter! It could keep the interest of the player and add more of an incentive to replay rather than the theme being just to escape as soon as possible each time. Also, creating items is perhaps not as interesting as it could be because in this way it resembles a point and click phone game and as a console game there is so much more scope for development.

There is a slightly more interactive element in cooking the meals, but it’s just a marker bouncing up and down over red and green areas and if it stops in the red, you instantly burn everything. For those with a natural sense of rhythm it is simple enough, but for anyone else it could be extremely frustrating when this happens repeatedly causing a restart due to starvation when the odds seem unfair. The redeeming factor is that every night that the character survives, the game is saved. It does mean that the player could repeatedly quit and restart from the morning but that definitely detracts from the experience of being stranded and is unlikely to be the most enjoyable or rewarding way to play. The idea to grow root vegetables is a nice addition but again, it feels very underdeveloped: find food, click buttons, done. Perhaps if the interactive element was here, instead of in the final cooking of the food, it would be more acceptable to all. For example, forgetting to water plants would normally kill them but here, one click to water and they can just be ignored and will magically grow without sunlight or water!

Conclusion

On first play though, Island of Spirits certainly is interesting and requires some thinking ahead to be able to complete. It ticks enough boxes for the making of a good game, but it could definitely benefit from some development if the creators wanted to appeal to a wider audience or to increase replayability.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • An intriguing and unique playing experience
  • Successful portrayal of island isolation
Bad
  • Could become quite frustrating for some gamers
  • More scope for development
6
Okay
Gameplay - 6
Graphics - 7
Audio - 7
Longevity - 4
Written by
As a child I enjoyed Puzzle/Logic, Adventure, Platform, Racing and Simulation games on the PC, and keeping myself sane at numerous family events on my Game Boy Pocket. Now I generally play Action-Adventure and Music/Rhythm console games, but I will forever be captivated by a beautiful game soundtrack.

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