The Island: Castaway
The Island: Castaway is a new sim-meets-RPG game from Sahmon Games. The game combines a Virtual Villagers kind of atmosphere with gameplay reminiscent of Wandering Willows, putting you in the role of a castaway on a lonely tropical island. Gather tons of items you'll use to hunt, fish, build, cook and more, all while fulfilling the needs of your friends and uncovering mystery after mystery on the fog-shrouded land.
You only control one character in The Island: a poor chap named Tom who spends his time running back and forth fulfilling the requests of everyone else on the island. The game progresses through a series of small missions that start off very simple and gradually become more involved. Using just the mouse, click on items to pick them up and store them in your massive inventory. When someone needs something from you, he or she will light up with an exclamation mark over their head. Simply click and your new task will be added to the checklist at the bottom of the screen.
At first, missions are straightforward and must be completed one after another. Soon, though, you'll have more objectives than you can complete, allowing a bit of wiggle room as to which order you complete them. You can push the story along, or you can run around picking up twigs and making fruit salad all day, it's up to you!
Speaking of fruit salad, The Island: Castaway is packed with diversions that play a strong role in the game. Recipes are one facet of this, allowing you to use fruits and meats to create meals that restore large chunks of your health. As you jog around doing your thing, your health gradually decreases, so it's always nice keeping a few meals stashed in your inventory. New recipes are gained through side missions, and they come in handy in a pinch. You'll also learn to fish, hunt, chop trees, plant things and more, all unveiled via new tools as the game progresses.
Analysis: While the visual set-up may remind you of most simulation games on the market, don't let the looks fool you. The Island: Castaway is far from your usual village sim, as it focuses on mini-missions and expanding gameplay as opposed to building a collective, central town. Unlocking trophies is also a big part of the game, and there are 15 to find in all, each with bronze, silver and gold levels.
The story plays a large role in The Island, and while it's not the most original piece of writing this side of To Kill a Mockingbird, you'll feel drawn in by the ever-expanding level of intrigue introduced by island natives, strange languages drawn in the sand, and statues hidden in bushes. Exploration and discovery are strong parts of this game, and you'll always feel like there's something new waiting around the corner.
Sahmon went to great lengths to make the interface friendly, and everything responds to your needs without a hitch. Feeding Tom to keep him healthy is easy, working with recipes and your other tools is simple, and the mini-map (along with the task list) makes it easy to see where characters are located and who wants your attention at the moment. Unfortunately, you can't manually scroll the screen, which is a bit of a letdown, but after a few minutes you won't really mind.
If The Island: Castaway has any faults, it's with the voice acting. The first lines you'll hear spoken will probably make you shudder. Later, the readings improve, but you still get the impression the actors were only allowed one take for the script, so everything sounds stilted and contrived. Casual gamers don't expect perfection from voice acting in our games, but sometimes it's just better to leave it out.
The Island: Castaway will absolutely steal your afternoon away. The combination of quick missions, exploration, discovery, and a seemingly endless supply of items to find, makes you constantly curious as to what awaits you around each corner. Play it casually, but be prepared to sink a lot of time into this excellent game!