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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
person, point-and-click, mouse controlled
Beautiful graphics and sound
Plays without CD in drive
Glitch free play
Little dialogue with others
Inventory heavy puzzles
few logic puzzles
mazes or color dependent puzzles
slider and 1 sound puzzle which can be avoided
few action elements with death being possible
frustrating arcade sequence, which is avoidable
XP Professional SP1
GHz Intel Pentium 4
Dual Channel DDR400 SDRAM
Sound Card: DirectX Version: 9.0b