Return to Mysterious Island


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Kheops Studio

Publisher:    The Adventure Company

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   see review below


Additional screenshots



by Jenny100

Return to Mysterious Island

Return to Mysterious Island is the third adventure game developed by Kheops Studio, after The Egyptian Prophecy and Crystal Key 2: The Far Realm (aka Evany). Although it shares some features with these earlier games, it also features a completely new way of managing inventory that results in some of the most original gameplay I've seen in a recent adventure game. Not only is the game non-linear, but most problems have multiple possibilities for a solution, which is not common in adventure games.

Return to Mysterious Island is intended as a sort of sequel to the book The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne. Verne's book The Mysterious Island was itself a sequel to his 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. If you've read the book The Mysterious Island, you may wonder how there could be a sequel. The game designers have come up with a fairly plausible explanation. I actually prefer their explanation. Although I thought The Mysterious Island was a great book, the end left something to be desired. I had the impression Mr. Verne was tired of writing about the island and wanted to get finished with it as soon as possible - and in such a way that he would never be called on to write any more about it.

Unlike the book, where four men, a teenaged boy, and their faithful dog were stranded on the island, the castaway this time is a lone young woman. But she's no ordinary woman. Mina is an adventure seeker who was attempting to break a world record by circumnavigating the Earth by sailboat all by herself. Unfortunately she was washed overboard during a storm. Exhausted after a night of swimming, she finally found her way to the shores of the Mysterious Island - mysterious because it was not on any map - and perhaps for other reasons. Her first order of business upon waking is to search for food. You may have noticed a food bar in some screenshots of the game. It is not a timed food bar, but you must fill it to the top before you can completely explore the island. So it is more like a progress bar. Like the previous group of castaways, Mina befriends a monkey and calls it Jep. (In the book there was an orangutan called Jup - short for Jupiter).


Return to Mysterious Island comes on two CD's and installs completely to the hard drive. There is no need to have a CD in the drive in order to play the game. If you don't have DirectX 9 installed, the installer will offer to install it for you.

Controls, Inventory, and Puzzles

Return to Mysterious Island is controlled almost entirely with the mouse. The escape key is used to bring up the save/load menu. The game has a standard node-with-panning interface. Right-clicking brings up the inventory screen.

You've never seen an inventory screen quite like this one - at least I haven't. You collect a large amount of inventory in Return to Mysterious Island and the developers made a special effort to make sure inventory management was as easy as possible. There are eight separate tabs you can access, each with 28 spaces for inventory. You can arrange your inventory any way you like. For example, I had food items and firestarting items on the first tab, plant and fibrous materials on the second tab, fishing equipment and stuff that could be used to make weapons on the third tab, "high tech" stuff like the makings of batteries and lamps on the fourth tab, medicinal stuff on the next tab, and way over to the right I put things I didn't think I'd need until very late in the game. Sorting things like this helped with figuring out how to combine inventory.

When you hover your cursor over an item, a brief tooltip-type description appears. When you left-click on an item, a further description appears in a large boxed area at the bottom of the screen. Later in the game, when you gain access to your "encyclopedia," more detailed information will appear in the boxed area. The encyclopedia is automatic and the entries appear automatically when you left-click on items.

To use an inventory item, left-click to pick it up, click the X in the lower right corner to close the inventory screen, and click it where you want to use it. When you collect inventory from the gameworld, it goes into a box at the upper right of the inventory screen which the manual refers to as the "Transit area." You can collect quite a few things in the "Transit area" before sorting them in the inventory spaces. You remove items from the "Transit area" by left-clicking to pick them up and then clicking them in the inventory space of your choice.

Inventory combination was almost always logical, though there were a few combinations that I would have thought would work, but didn't. When you want to combine inventory, you left-click one item to pick it up. It sticks to your cursor and you click on the second item. It doesn't matter which item you click on first. If the two items together create a new item, you'll see the two items appear below in the "Assembly area" with a "+" sign between them and an "=" sign after, followed by an icon of whatever the newly created item is. At the same time, you get a text description of what you have just accomplished in the box at the bottom of the screen. You may also get a pictorial representation of Mina completing the action. Many objects require more than two inventory items to create. When that happens, you'll get icons for the first two items pictured with a "+ ?" for each additional item that needs to be added. If this sounds complicated, it isn't. It can easily be figured out with a little experimentation without consulting the game manual.

Most inventory combinations are logical, but you might not think to try some combinations unless you've found notes about how to make a battery, or cause some sort of chemical reaction that will produce a useful ingredient. However once you gain access to the encyclopedia you will get more hints. And you can always experiment with what you have to see what will work. If nothing else, you'll discover how many more ingredients you'll need to create a new and mysterious doohickey.

If items can be disassembled, a small wrench will appear next to the main icon. There is a box with a picture of a wrench in it at the left side of the inventory screen. You can disassemble items by picking them up and clicking them on this box. You'll get a description of the items you've reclaimed and they'll be piled up in the "Transit area" in the upper right of the screen.

Once your monkey is ready to help you, he'll have his own box at the right side of the screen. You can provide him with tools and send him to do your bidding in places you can't reach. He sits at the right side of your inventory and you can click inventory items on him to have him carry them. Then you can click on him and use him in the game environment the same way you would any other inventory item.

Mina has a cell phone, a GPS, and access to an online newspaper. These are unavailable when you first start the game. You can probably guess why, but I won't tell you here. Once Mina gets them working, you'll be able to access them from the inventory screen.

Menus and Options

The Main Menu includes selections for New Game, Load Game, Credits, Options, and Quitting the game. After playing the game, a new selection called Picture Gallery becomes available on the Main Menu. There are Options for hardware or software mode, panning speed, subtitles, and overall sound levels. You can replay cut scenes from the Picture Gallery. In addition, bonus graphics come available for every 100 points you win.

When you  save your game, it is saved along with a screenshot and a date. You are allowed to overwrite saves if you choose. The game prompts you before you overwrite a save so you are less apt to do it by accident. As far as I could tell, there is no restriction on the number of saves you can have in the game. I had a total of 79 saves on one computer.


Return to Mysterious Island uses 1024x768 resolution and 32-bit color. The graphics are prerendered and display full screen. The landscape is nicely detailed with various types of plant life and geological formations. There is a sandy area along the beach, a volcanic area where there is evidence of a recent lava flow, a field where crops were once grown, a windmill near a rock ledge, and wooded areas where Mina may find herbs and other useful items. In several areas she finds the ruins of buildings and mechanical constructions which were created by the previous group of castaways.

There are no transitions as you move from node to node, but the game has many background animations. There are many birds and  butterflies flitting about. Some water is animated, some not. Hot springs bubble and smoke rises in the air. The menu screen itself is animated, not only with birds and butterflies but with a monkey sitting over at the left, who will scratch himself and occasionally toss a stick at you if you take too long loading your game.

Most of the "cut scenes" are done montage style instead of being movies. For example, instead of seeing a little movie of Mina cooking and eating something, you'll see a series of two or three sketches appear that depict Mina in separate stages of the process. This stylistic choice no doubt allowed the game to fit on two CD's. Since the inspiration for the game came from a book, it doesn't seem too out of place for some of the "cut scenes" to resemble book illustrations.


Background sounds varied with location - water sounds, ocean sounds, the sound of the wind, bird calls, the hum of insects, the creak and clank of the windmill turning, and others. The game gives good audio feedback. By that I mean when you click on things in the game menu or in inventory, you hear sounds that indicate your click has registered. When you try to unsuccessfully combine objects that can't be combined, you hear a buzzer. When you successfully combine items, you hear a more pleasant sound.

Music played at times, though not continuously. Generally it was good, suited the locale, and was not intrusive.

The main voice you hear in the game is that of Mina. She talks to herself and to Jep and sometimes makes comments when you try using inventory. Sometimes Mina will explain "why" she won't do something. For example she won't send Jep to do anything she feels might be dangerous for him. You rarely hear other voices in the game, but they are all reasonably good.

Required Specs (as listed on the game box)

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Pentium III 800 MHz (1 GHz or better recommended)

64 MB system RAM (128 MB recommended)

16x CDROM Drive (24x CDROM or better recommended)

64 MB DirectX 9.0 compatible 3D video card (or higher)

DirectX 9.0 compatible sound card

The computers I played it on

Windows 2000 SP2

Athlon 64 3200+

1024 MB system RAM

16X Toshiba SD-M1702 DVD drive

Nvidia Geforce 5700 FX with 256 MB video RAM

onboard sound


Windows 2000 SP2

Athlon XP 1800+ (about 1533 MHz)

512 MB system RAM

16x/10x/12x/40x Toshiba SD-R1202 combo drive

Matrox G550 graphics card with 32 MB video RAM

SBLive Value 5.1

Possible Glitches

There were no problems on the first computer, which met all the required system specs. The second computer had a video card that had only 32 MB of video RAM instead of the minimum 64 MB listed on the box. Although the game was playable on this computer, I was often kicked to the desktop when accessing certain things on the inventory screen, like the Phone or the Objectives. Anyway, if you try to play the game with a 32 MB video card instead of the 64 MB (or greater) video card that is listed on the box, you may get the same thing.

Additional comments

I never thought I'd have so much fun with a game that has inventory puzzles as its main feature. The inventory system was a pure delight compared to the systems in some otherwise fine adventure games that involve endless scrolling.

There are a few times when your character can be killed, but they are mostly all in one part of the game and the game automatically restores you to before your big mistake. All that is necessary is to left-click on the image and you get another try, starting from a safe location a step away from the danger zone.

Having read the book The Mysterious Island, it was interesting to see the locations I remembered reading about. Of course there was some spatial distortion. The island in the game was much smaller. Parts of the island that were five miles apart (or more) in the book were only a few steps away from each other in the game. It probably wouldn't have been practical to do everything to scale in the game, so this isn't a big issue. But I would have liked to do more exploring. I wanted to go inside the volcano and search around the cave a bit more. I wanted to see more of the shoreline. And I was disappointed that I saw so little of the interior of the Nautilus when I finally managed to get there. The ending was also a bit less than what I was hoping for. But for most of the time I was playing the game I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Like the old King's Quest games, Return to Mysterious Island has a point system. For those who enjoy trying to discover every possibility available in the game, this gives the game some replay value. The record high score is apparently 395 points. Another way to play is to try to complete the game with the lowest possible score. The known record for that is 125 points.


Return to  Mysterious Island is a great game for those who love inventory puzzles. Its strong points are its unique inventory combination system and puzzles that allow multiple solutions to problems. It isn't a very long or difficult game for someone who has played a lot of adventure games. It is not a game for those who are looking for a strong story or in-depth character development. But it is a fun game and would probably be a good choice for someone who is new to adventure games.

Overall Grade  A-

November 14,  2004

design copyright 2004 GameBoomers Group

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