I’ve recently been thinking about playing shorter games for this site. The stuff that I’ve been planning to play on my backlog are kinda longish or have a bunch of replay value that it’ll take a lot of playing to form a solid opinion. And so, I decided to hit up itch.io’s randomizer and see where that’d take me.
The randomizer took me to Island of Terror, by tripodattack. On the eponymous island, a experiment went horribly wrong and opened a portal unleashing monsters, which seems to be how these kinds of experiments go.
The game bills itself as a survival horror. Your standard environmental storytelling of computer logs speak of dread and keys hidden around the place and the game is presented through a cramped circle, representing the radius of your lantern while you explore a one-bit world. Your lantern is constantly dying, so you’ll have to pick up fuel while you’re poking around to avoid plunging into darkness and getting a game over. There is a lack of music outside of the title screen, with only footsteps and the roar of monsters as common sound effects. It’s a sort of minimalist way of presenting a survival horror, building atmosphere through presentation instead of giving hard scares.
Which is good, because the monsters themselves are considerably less scary. For me, they look kinda cutesy, like a weird Kirby enemy. Love these guys. What is scary however is that these monsters are invincible. You can collect limited throwing daggers, but that only stuns these fellas so that you can run past them. The only way to beat them is by outrunning them, which doesn’t sound hard (especially since their AI isn’t exactly perfect), but in more closed off spaces they’re more of a nuisance.
The game is spent gathering keys to advance and picking up fuel. You also need to gather dynamite to blow open brick walls, which pretty much serves the same function as keys. I kinda wish that the game had a display showing you which keys you currently have on you, but then again, that’d might mess with the clean look of the game.
My issues in the game lie in the movement and enemy spawns. You do not have diagonal movement, so movement is not as fluid as it could be. Try to do that and you’re stuck moving in a cardinal direction, which can screw you up if you’re being chased. Another thing is that while the game does seem to base when an enemy spawns on proximity, it doesn’t seem to check if you’re too close. As a result, enemies sometimes spawned right on top of me, resulting in unavoidable damage/deaths. While enemies do seem to have set spawn points, it’d be troublesome for people coming into the game. And you know, that’s just lousy anyway.
Island of Terror is a simple survival horror with a nice minimalist presentation, however, I feel that the issues above keep it from being as smooth of an experience as it could be. If those issues were fixed up though, it’d be a decent short time killer.