I like adventure games. I swear I do. I have fond memories of playing through the Monkey Island games. I really enjoyed Telltale’s Sam & Max revival. When afforded the chance to try Microids’ Return To Mysterious Island games, courtesy of a re-release on Steam, I was intrigued. These were games that I have heard good things about and were considered some of the better adventure games during the genre’s lull in popularity. Lamentably, I am either a terrible fan of the genre, or these did not age well.
You wake up on the shore of a mysterious island, shipwrecked with a sat-phone that’s low on juice. You also, apparently, suffer from hypoglycemia, as you are first tasked with feeding yourself before continuing on. I ate the following in one sitting: three whole coconuts, two crabs, three large turtle eggs (raw, pierced with a rusted key,) one bird egg (also raw and pierced with rusty key,) and one whole fish before my character declared that she was satiated enough to continue. This was not overindulgence, but required to proceed.
Of course, gathering and devouring these items involved solving various puzzles around the beach. I will concede that the solutions make sense in context, but they also felt arbitrary. While not elegant, I ought to have been able to bash a coconut open against a rock and eat it, without first needing to fashion a knife. I mean, I’m a castaway. There’s no need to be fancy.
I continued, finally, exploring the island only to be accosted by a large group of shrieking primates throwing what I hope was just rocks at me. In order to move on, I had to figure out a way to stop them without harming them. My wife, a zookeeper, can tell you that trying to solve riddles while being screamed at by chimps (or husband –wife) is not a relaxing or rewarding experience. It was at this point that I realized that I was irritated. This lead me further to the realization that there was a reason this genre suffered from lack of attention for a while. I then reached the conclusion that as this was a classic release, I could do a simple impressions piece and move on to something more pleasant. For example, ghost pepper colon cleansing.
The classic adventure games are fun because the story is fun. The environments are interesting to explore. The puzzles feel clever and engaging. Return to Mysterious Island does not fit the bill for me.