I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a survival expert. Were I trapped deep in a Bali jungle or marooned on Russia’s icy steppes, I wouldn’t have the least idea what to do (unless cellphone coverage is solid). Because of this lack of survival training, I love adventuring in digital spaces where chances of dying from spider venom are significantly slimmer. That’s why I looked forward to playing Return to Mysterious Island for the iPod Touch.
Return to Mysterious Island is a port of the identically named PC game, originally based on the Jules Verne novel Mysterious Island, itself a sequel to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The stories are tied together with Mina, a young woman attempting to break a maritime record but swept overboard when caught in a storm. Now marooned on an island, she must use survival techniques to keep healthy and penetrate the island’s mysteries. Exciting, no?
The game’s graphics haven’t decreased in the port. Each screen of the game is photographic, containing high levels of quality and detail. You move from place to place by pressing on floating arrows, which triggers a smooth shift onto the next area. Interaction is marked by various symbols. A hand icon indicates something you can pick up, whereas a gear icon indicates something you can interact with like a fire pit or a vine that you can cut down with the right item. Certain actions are displayed in well drawn stills. The game has some cut scenes, but the stills are the main story tool of this game.
Audio is well done, with a proper collection of island noises. Accompanying music enhances the game’s experience as well. Most of the audio, though, consists of Mina’s voice, which is thankfully one of the best parts of the game. Mina’s personality is perfectly captured through her voice acting so you get a clear understanding her character as you play the game.
Item management is a big part of Return to Mysterious Island. The original’s item system was complex, so I was curious to see how it translated to the iPod Touch. It’s retained most of its functionality with a few twitchy spots. As you explore the island, you pick up random objects in the grand tradition of adventure games. Items can not only be used on their own but also combined with other items for different purposes. For instance, you can create a lighter by combining a jagged piece of metal with a piece of sandstone. This you can use to relight an abandoned firepit and cook some edible items to restore Mina’s energy. Combining and reusing items makes up a substantial part of the game play.
Luckily, this works well on the Ipod Touch. Two boxes in the lower right corner of the screen show what you have picked up and what you are currently holding. The item screen is approximately 20 slots stretched over about eight screens. To combine items, just drag one item over another in the item combination area. For example, combining a knife and coconut results in a still showing Mina carving the coconut, and then you will be left with a husked coconut. In a more complex example, you can combine worms, a piece of metal, a thin vine, and a long piece of wood to make a fishing line. Completed items can be dragged into a box in the upper right of the screen, placing them in Mina’s hand.
The inventory system works well, but it’s not easy to control. It’s difficult to select the right item and drag it to where you want to go, and switching between screens in your inventory is more difficult than it should be. You switch screens by flicking your finger at a sphere marked with two arrows, but there’s no indication of whether you’re going right or left. I once spent five minutes trying to get back to the first screen of the inventory because when I moved my finger right the screen moved left. This part of the game suffers from the lack of a mouse. A few bugs, more annoying then crippling, water down the experience. The game jammed during a certain action, so I’d have to close and reopen the game. I didn’t lose any progress, but it was a pain. Also, when first starting the game, Mina’s initial speech replayed over and over, causing me to restart.
Despite the occasional bug, RtMI is still a good game with a nice transfer to the iPod Touch. Gamers wanting some old school point and click adventuring on the go should pick it up.