Return to Mysterious Island


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:    Kheops Studio

Publisher:    The Adventure Company

Released:  2004

PC Requirements:   see review below



Additional Screenshots




by Looney4Labs


Jules Verne’s classic novel, The Mysterious Island, was published in 1874.  It relates the sweeping tale of five men seeking to flee the carnage of the U. S. Civil War.  Escaping in a hot air balloon, they land on an uncharted island, which they name Lincoln Island.  Here they survive by their wits and ability to live off what the land and sea provide.  Intermittently, they are mysteriously aided by a person or persons unknown.

One hundred and thirty years later, in a tribute to this classic, Kheops Studio brings us Return to Mysterious Island.  The game shares much with the original story—this time it is a “solo navigator,” Mina, landing on Lincoln Island.  She, too, must survive alone using only her own wits.  References to Mysterious Island and bits of information about the original settlers of Lincoln Island provide a bridge to the original.

Return to Mysterious Island is a first person, mouse controlled, point-and-click adventure game.  Its 360 degree panning gives the gamer a great sense of freedom of movement.  It takes the adventurer to windswept beaches, volcanic heights, cliff dwellings, and to a hidden and mysterious submarine.  From the opening screen to its closing shot, this game provides beautiful and exciting locations along with a hint of a ghostly mystery and many inventory based puzzles.

I walked along a windswept beach, and followed the tortoise’s trail:

Gentle waves break on a deserted beach.  A shadow falls on Mina, lying prone in the surf.  She awakens.  “I’m alive!”  And then, “I thought I saw someone on that cliff top.”  On this ghostly note, the adventure begins.  If only it had continued in that vein…. 

Awake, alone, and happy to be alive, Mina does not know exactly where she is.  Her quest to survive requires her to explore her surroundings, discover the island’s secrets, and hopefully, find a way home. 

I cleared a trail and at its end, I found a friend:

The island is beautiful, and exploring it intriguing.  However, from time to time Mina refused to go where I wanted, instead exclaiming, “You’d need a monkey to get up there.”   So I was delighted to befriend a whimsical simian named Jep. Jep keeps Mina from being all alone, and aids her in some tasks.

A very beautiful place to spend some time:

Return to Mysterious Island is a striking game.  The photorealistic settings are truly gorgeous, full of color and movement.  Waves quietly break on the beach, water in the lake ripples, butterflies and other flying critters abound.  Oddly, I noticed the foliage never seems to move—I can hear the wind, but all vegetation is still.

How on earth can I trap that snake?

The puzzles are mostly (more than 90%) inventory based and driven by Mina’s needs—i.e., Mina is hungry and needs to be fed, or Jep is sick and needs to be cured.  (You get the idea.)  Most of the inventory puzzles are logically integrated into the storyline and involve no pixel hunting.   Occasionally, the tasks puzzled me, but this was the exception and not the norm. 

Sometimes there is more than one way to complete a task—for example, with one adversary, you can either give him a gift or scare him away.  I found this bit of freedom refreshing. 

Return to Mysterious Island has no dead ends.  It will not let you use inventory items in a way that results in the inability to progress. 

Above and beyond the inventory puzzles:

While most of the puzzles in this game are inventory based, there is some variety.  There is one fairly easy “bridge” type puzzle, a few logic puzzles, and (my favorite), the riddle puzzle.

The game has no mazes, and no color dependant puzzles.  There is one sound puzzle and one slider; but happily, both can be avoided by taking an alternate path to your goal.    

Where did those robots come from?

Sadly for pure adventure gamers, there are several areas that require “action.”  With one notable exception (see below), I easily completed these tasks with a few tries.

Why are they trying to kill me?

Yes, you can die. And I did—several times!  However, as dying goes, it is a relatively painless event.  I returned automatically to the moment just before I died.  I tried again, and sometimes again, doing things a little differently each time until I felt the “thrill of victory.” 

Arrrrrrrrgh—I learned to hate monkeys!

And now for that notable exception! Return to Mysterious Island has one area with an arcade /action sequence requiring both a quick clicking finger and good aiming skills.  I have neither.  I passionately despised this section.  A green bar shows the gamer’s progress in getting these quite aggravating monkeys to move.  Success shrinks the bar.  It disappears when you have successfully scared the monkeys away.   However, this bar increases with missed shots or when the monkeys hide. It is not possible to hit or scare them while they are hiding, yet the bar increases. This is Not Fair!

Life is not fair, but adventure games should be.  You can avoid this section, but I found that out after the fact.  This sequence adds nothing to the storyline, but it does count for points.  

Put the thorn here, the bread there, and the gunpowder over yonder:

Being extremely inventory heavy, Return to Mysterious Island needs an outstanding inventory system—and it has one.  This inventory system is the best I’ve ever seen.  It allows me to organize my inventory according to my preferences.

There are seven inventory pages.  Inventory initially goes into a holding area.  You place each item according to your wishes.  You can reorganize your inventory at whim or need, and also discard unwanted items.   This system is fast, easy, and logical.

Willow + quills + feathers = arrows:

Completing tasks often calls for combining/disassembling items.  This is simply done in a special area on the inventory page. Click on the page, pick up the item and move it to the assembly area. Return to Mysterious Island aids you in making combinations by showing a “?” for any missing items during assembly, thus informing you of how many things are missing in that grouping.   If you put two articles together -- and later need one of them for something else -- just take it apart and you’re in business.

A journal, a phone, and a very useful encyclopedia:

The inventory page includes a journal which records Mina’s observations and the contents of any written materials found.  A quick glance at it may set a wandering or “wondering” player back on course. 

Also, there is a phone and an in-game encyclopedia.  Both are useful but neither is available until later in the game.

I heard the sound of my own thoughts:

Mina’s voice is beautifully done—she sounds young, adventurous, and full of self-confidence.  Though there is very little interaction with others, Mina mutters to herself from time to time.    These musings give soul to the character.  The voice actress did a wonderful job.

What’s that I hear?

The background music and ambient sounds are beautifully done, contributing significantly to the game’s atmosphere.  

Though there is music on the menu page, there is none in the early stages of the game.  Instead, abundant and authentic ambient sounds evoke a feeling of loneliness.  Mina explores to the accompaniment of breaking surf, the roar of a far away waterfall, chirping birds, chattering monkeys, whispering wind and, throughout the game, the occasional ominous rumbling of the earth.  In time, instruments and voices skillfully interweave with the ambient sounds, adding some much needed tension and emotion. 

Now, back to the beginning:

Return to Mysterious Island comes on two CDs, installs quickly and easily, and runs flawlessly.  No disk is needed in the drive after installation.  It is Alt+Tab friendly.  There are no patches.

Let’s move Mina:

The game employs 360 degree panning and is mouse controlled.  Left clicking moves Mina, picks up and uses inventory items, and  skips the introductory screens.  Right clicking opens the inventory page.  Escape brings the Menu screen up.

And what are my choices?

From the Menu, you can Save, Load, Resume, Exit, or access the Options.  Options include the ability to adjust camera rotation, select hardware or software rendering, turn subtitles on and off, and adjust the sound volume. 

When real life intervenes, or back from the island:

Happily, this game has unlimited saves, but unfortunately, you cannot name your own saves.  Instead, there is a large picture associated with each save. 

Revisiting the cut scenes, and more:

The cut scenes in Return to Mysterious Island are graphic montages.  They are replayable from the gallery, and new images are added with each 100 points.  Accessing the gallery while playing seemed clunky, but I enjoyed looking at it after I finished a section.

How many points do I get for that?

Mina is awarded points for each item made.  I liked this feature, even though I largely ignored it while playing the first time.  It adds some replay value as one could seek to better the points total on a second play, but this does not affect the game’s progress or outcome.

I wrecked, I explored, and I escaped:

Playing Return to Mysterious Island was an interesting and enjoyable, but far from immersive gaming experience.  Though it has many wonderful elements, the separate parts fail to coalesce into a magnificent whole.  It didn’t grab me until very near its ending. Perhaps the lack of story depth in the game’s beginning prevented it from being the experience I anticipated.

I listened to a ghost and set a soul to rest:

Thankfully, in time (lots of time) a stronger story emerges.  Mina finds Granite House and discovers more of the island’s back story.

I became more immersed as the story elements unfolded. The journal in Granite house adds background, mystery, and develops the plot.  Also, Mina’s discovery of a letter from Jules Verne and an original copy of The Mysterious Island adds a delightful touch to the game’s ambience.  I only wish there had been more of this type of enhancement earlier in the game. 

At no point did I lose myself in this game.  That immersive quality which is the hallmark of a great game is, regrettably, missing.  I did not fall in love with this game as I expected to, but I did enjoy playing it.  


3rd person, point-and-click, mouse controlled

360 degree panning

Subtitle option

Beautiful graphics and sound

Photorealistic settings

Plays without CD in drive

Easy install

Glitch free play

Little dialogue with others

Unlimited saves

Alt+tab friendly

In-game journal

Inventory heavy puzzles

A few logic puzzles

No mazes or color dependent puzzles

No pixel hunting

1 slider and 1 sound puzzle which can be avoided

A few action elements with death being possible

One frustrating arcade sequence, which is avoidable

No dead ends


Grade: B+

I played on:

Win XP Professional SP1

3.2 GHz Intel Pentium 4

1 GB Dual Channel DDR400 SDRAM

Sound Card: DirectX Version:  9.0b

Video Card: 128 DDR NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra


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