What happens when you mix Jurassic Park with Lost and blend them into an iPhone adventure game? The results may surprise you. Stranded: Mysteries in Time is an adventure game with great ambition, but plagued by poor execution.
In Stranded, you play as Dr. Alex Howells, a ripped scientist who looks as if he should be a spokesman for GNC stores instead of a researcher. Alex is stationed on a tropical island where experiments on the local flora and fauna are taking place. Then he is thrust into turmoil after the arrival of the “Professor,” who has come to the island with his steam-powered time machine in tow.
After discovering that the time machine actually works, Alex gets caught up in a sinister plot that requires him to brave the prehistoric land of the dinosaurs. Alex must also appease General Thorn, who is dead-set on capturing dinosaur eggs from the distant past for ill-gotten gains. This all may sound like an epic adventure, but the experience is tarnished by sub-par gameplay.
This is why you don’t play tag with dinosaurs.
The controls are simple. There is an onscreen D-Pad, and buttons appear when you can interact with the environment. Stranded unfolds in “episodes” that can be completed by taking quests from the island’s residents. Most of the quests require fetching items and running back and forth across the island to deliver them, which leaves you feeling more like a courier than a badass scientist.
You’ll also be treated to a mandatory fishing minigame to complete your goals. The fishing is quite boring and should have utilized the accelerometer, but instead requires you to mindless tap to reel in the fish. Even the breaks from the generic gameplay are a snooze-fest.
Occasionally, Alex will have to travel back in time to gather items from prehistoric times. These sequences end up being the best parts of the game, mostly because they require you to shoot dinosaurs with a tranquilizer rifle. If you intend to travel back in time, you’ll have to make sure you’ve gathered enough wood to power the time machine. You’ll be spending a lot of time cutting down trees with your trusty axe to make sure you can get back to the future. Stranded is too focused on making you collect items, which makes for a mundane experience.
The graphics aren’t too shabby, though. The mysterious island is lush and detailed. The characters models aren’t anything special, but the dinosaurs and environments are well-rendered.
On the other hand, the absolute worst part of this game is the soundtrack. You will have to sit through the same background music for 95% of this adventure. Luckily, Glu has included in-game iPod controls to replace the painful background music. Even decent graphics and custom soundtracks aren’t enough to make this title more exciting.
Stranded: Mysteries in Time is a mixed bag. It’s possible to see past its flaws and still enjoy it for what it is. If you enjoy adventure titles and a more story-driven experience, this app could be up your alley. But if you’re expecting action, Stranded fails to deliver.