Verschollen Auf Lost Island is touted as an old school adventure game, and that is no lie. It looks and plays like something from 1992 and yet it was released just this year. Despite the plethora of companies involved in its development and publication, it smacks of homemade through and through. The story really makes no sense at all. Why, then, did I give it a thumb up? Read on, gentle reader ...
In the opening movie, our hero, Tim, finds his girlfriend, Diana, being accosted by a stranger with a gun. He fights with the stranger; during the tussle, the stranger shoots, or rather zaps, Diana, and she disappears into some other dimension leaving behind only her clothing. The fight continues and Tim ultimately loses and is too zapped away by the stranger and his mysterious ray gun. Tim finds himself naked in a crater and his first task is to cover his privates and then get out of the pit. His initial attempts fail. We were all giggling pretty hard at the various outcomes. Finally Tim succeeds, then he wends his way through a strange world filled with pirates and Anubis-garbed aliens in his quest to reunite with Diana and return to his own time and place.
Only the title and packaging of the game are German; the game itself is good King's English through and through, even down to the subtitles. The characters were well-played by British actors. Tim's voice actor reminded me a lot of Ringo Starr, not in his Beatles incarnation but rather as the Conductor in the old children's show Shining Times Station, employing that rather low-key style to good effect. All of the actors, in fact, were rather low-key, which suits me just fine. I don't much fancy that exaggerated, in-your-face, obnoxious sitcom style used for sidekicks in many games (and for all of the characters in games like Koala Lumpur). Instead, the farcical elements of Verschollen were emphasized by the very "situation normal" attitude of the characters in the face of the preposterous circumstances.
The screen backgrounds are drawn nicely ... at 640x480 resolution. The characters too are well-rendered ... if we were to imagine we were magically transported back in time 10 years. The graphical quality of Verschollen is about on par with that of The Curse of Monkey Island or Flight of the Amazon Queen. These graphics are there to serve a purpose, not as fine art, and the purpose is indeed served.
The music is really weird. It's decent, and there are several different pieces so none of it becomes too tiresome, but the music has no bearing on what's happening in the game. Rather, each of the 10 or so different loops, in 10 or so completely different musical styles, will be played through and then swapped over to another, with no rhyme or reason. Definitely a unique approach to game orchestration - I don't think I've ever run across anything similar.
Puzzles are entirely inventory-based. Gameplay takes place in several sequential areas. Once you progress from one to the next, there is no going back. These areas are all fairly small, each requiring about 45 minutes to complete. Inventory items found and used in one area are carried into the next area but will, with one exception, be unusable for the rest of the game. There are, however, not more than about 20 or 25 items in the entire game, so the inventory doesn't really become very cumbersome. There are a couple of instances where you will need to combine inventory items but for the most part you use them as you found them. You cannot die.
The interface is simple - you get a smart cursor that changes shape depending on what kind of interaction is available. This is all automatic; you don't need to choose verbs or cycle through the cursors at all. The screens are remarkably uncluttered; there are very few red herring objects either onscreen or in inventory.
There are multiple endings, four that I found, and all are based on choices that you make at a pivotal point at the very end of the game. So all you need to do is save at that pivotal point, and you too can experience the different finales. My favorite was the "bad" ending, in which Tim is ... ha! Did you think I was going to tell you?
So ... on the minus side we have crappy graphics, a maze, a story that makes no sense. On the plus side, we have ... not much. Oh yeah, there is one important positive factor, probably the most important: Verschollen Auf Lost Island is entertaining as all get-out. It's suitable for the entire family, too, and it's fairly short (it took me about five hours to play through). I recommend this game to anyone who likes cartoony, third-person inventory fests.
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