At Slide to Play, we love adventure games. This is made obvious by the fact that, for instance, we declared Beneath a Steel Sky to be our October 2009 Game of the Month and that the original Return to Mysterious Island garnered our highest rating when it was released. Nevertheless, no adventure game gets a free pass, and each must be weighed according to its merits and faults. With that said, the second game in this series based on the classic Jules Verne novel fails to make the same impact as the original, but still manages to satisfy on a number of levels.
The most notable aspect of this sequel is that this isn’t the sequel you might be expecting. Significant changes have been made to the PC sequel off of which this is based. Newcomers won’t notice, but even the developers make it clear in the app description that this is for all intents and purposes a different experience. As such, it’s certainly one that has been tailored to the iPhone, but people looking to revisit a beloved game might feel cheated by some absent game elements.
The problem stems from the fact that many developers feel that because of the iPhone’s small screen and lack of intuitive control options, game elements must be stripped out to create a more natural, flowing experience. However, several amazing games in a multitude of genres have shown us that with a bit more brainstorming and play testing, most of these issues can be resolved in innovative ways, keeping a full game experience intact.
Captain Nemo she ain’t.
Still, Secrets of the Mysterious Island is a breathtaking experience that fans of the original iPhone port are more than likely to enjoy. The same visual fidelity from that game is present here, and is even further accentuated for 3GS users who can use the internal compass to create an augmented reality-esque experience through full 360-degree physical turning of the device.
Puzzles are obtuse, with obscure item combination being a continued pain-in-the-rear method of puzzle solving, but that’s par for the course and one of the things that adventure game purists have come to love (or at least tolerate) over the years. Voice acting is also as hokey as ever, but does come in a host of languages if English isn’t your native tongue. The heavy reliance on CGI sequences was a staple of the era in which this game originated, which is not so much a problem unless squeezing over 700MB of data onto your iPhone for a single app is going to be a problem (you need double that amount to be able to download and install it over wi-fi).
Notwithstanding the aforementioned gripes, we suspect you’ll finish this game with a satisfied smile rather than a frown and a grumble. The story is intriguing, the characters are mostly memorable, and the puzzles are difficult enough to prolong your first playthrough and justify the somewhat higher price tag ($6.99 at the time of this review). Enjoy this game, but be warned that if you played the PC version that you’re in for a truncated experience.