Sinking Island


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   White Birds Productions

Publisher:    Micro Application & Encore

Released:  August 2008

PC Requirements:   Windows XP/Vista/2000, 1.5Ghz CPU, 512 MB RAM, Direct X 9.0 sound card, Video card 3D 64 MB, Direct X9.0c DVD-ROM, 3GB disk space

Walkthrough   Walkthrough

Additional Screenshots




by Looney4Labs


Thunder peals! Lightning explodes! The sea surges violently! Silently, an island slips into the briny deep and is no more. We've heard these tales from time immemorial. Now comes a new one.  White Birds Productions has given us a third person adventure game based on this scenario--Sinking Island.

Trivia: The Republic of Maldives is an island nation consisting of 1,192 islets and achieved independence from Britain in 1965.1

Sinking Island’s story is convoluted, imparted gradually through documents and conversations. Though not a “new” premise, it is compelling and artfully revealed.

Walter Jones, a ruthless, megalomaniacal billionaire, has commissioned the building of a colossal hotel, Jones Tower, on Sagorah Island in the Maldives. While this unfinished monument to an unbalanced man is still a work in progress, he invites his estranged family to join him. Though his stated purpose is to heal some longstanding breaches, Jones is not known for his forgiving nature. Sanguinely or avariciously, they heed his call. However, that very night, the island is wracked with a series of vicious storms, and during one of them, Jones is found dead on the beach.

Jack Norm, the police inspector tasked with finding the truth, arrives via helicopter the next morning. Armed with only his cell phone, his trusty Personal Police Assistant (PPA), and his wits, he must ferret out long buried secrets to uncover the truth. Time is not on his side. The relentless ocean inexorably claims Sagorah, threatening to send everyone and everything on it to the bottom of the sea. Because of the severity of the tempest and the remoteness of the island, no help will come from outside. If the murderer is to be exposed and the inhabitants saved, Jack must work quickly.

Trivia: The Maldives Islands average only one to two square kilometers in area, and lie between one and 1.5 meters above mean sea level.1

This is a game of choices, and the first choice you’ll make is whether to play on Adventure mode or Race Against Time. Either way, you will have three days to unearth the villain and rescue yourself and those around you from certain death. No pressure there!

Adventure mode allows you to take your time, asking everyone about everything. Each day ends when you have completed certain puzzles and triggered specific information.

However, if you Race Against the Clock, that investigative style will not work. This mode demands more discrimination in your questioning. You receive progress deadlines which, if not met, result in failure.

Don’t panic! If this happens, all is not lost. You are free to go back to a previous save, use the last auto save, or start the game over. As a bonus, you can also activate Assisted Mode which gives you an occasional hint. 

Trivia: The beaches of about a third of the two hundred inhabited islands of the Maldives are being swept away.3

In either mode, Jack needs to interrogate various suspects, find and analyze clues, and deduce which information correlates to answer a specific mandate. These are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and as each one is solved, we watch the answer play out before us. When the last mandate is answered, you have your killer.

Sinking Island’s dialogue options are a bit more involved than just your standard “tree.” Each time Jack converses, his choices are divided into Clues, Statements, Suspects, and Mandates. He is free to ask about or to ignore anything.

Some dialogue was awkward. For instance, one suspect repeatedly said “I’m at your disposition.” I think the word they wanted was “disposal.” Thankfully, right clicking skips repeated exchanges. Also, there are a few mild expletives, and one that is not so mild.

Trivia: Some environmentalists are convinced that Tuvalu Island will cease to exist within fifty years.2

Because the game is nonlinear, be prepared for a lot of “to-and-fro.” I covered the same areas many times. Sometimes I was at fault, but not always. This quickly became aggravating, especially when playing the timed version. For instance, once Jack had to traverse fourteen screens to obtain needed evidence while time raced away. A map giving instant transportation would have been a great boon.

Speaking of unnecessary movement, at certain times Jack gets hungry, stops what he is doing—no matter how important—and goes back to the dining room to eat. Also, now and then, his wife calls. Regardless of what he is engaged in, he heads to his room to chat with her privately. While that’s a nice trait in a spouse, I found being jerked away from my current interrogation quite frustrating.

I appreciated the summary of events which always plays while a saved game is loading. It’s not unusual for me to have a break of several days between gaming sessions. Though this only summarized the solved mandates, it still served to get my head back into the game.

Trivia: The government of the Maldives has been working on the construction of an artificial island called Hulhumale, which can serve as a new home for the island’s residents.2

Sinking Island is entirely point and click. For the most part, the interface is intuitive. I particularly like the individual controls for music, special effects and voices. Subtitles are available.

You can save at will. In addition, the game auto saves for you at certain points, and saves seem to be unlimited. Sadly, it is not Alt+Tab friendly.

Jack’s PPA is a lifesaver. A helpful tutorial plays when you first open it. Here you can find the current location of any non-player character (NPC) as well as the relationships between them.

Also, all clues are stored here and are automatically divided into sections: Materials, Prints, Pictures, Documents and Declarations. The Declarations section is especially helpful, as it records relevant discourses. The PPA also provides the means to compare pieces of evidence.

Inventory is held in a small dropdown box next to the PPA. But since all clues go into the PPA, less than a dozen items end up in inventory. Some items were obscured by the “hand cursor,” so I was forced to open inventory to see what useful thing I had just acquired.

Trivia: Whale-Skate Island, a home to seabirds, seals, and turtles near Hawaii has vanished.4

As Jack approached the Jones Tower for the first time, the sheer immensity of it overwhelmed me. While the graphics were detailed, the caliginous lighting revealed muted tones of brown and grey and a few dull greens everywhere. In spite of the excellent details (or maybe because of them), the tower was a dreary and uncomfortable place. Cold and sterile, it was falling apart before it was ever finished. However, these joyless surroundings were a perfect setting for a somber and not-so-pretty story.

I loved the movement of the trees swaying in the blowing wind, surf crashing and lightning reflecting off the sea and the cliffs. Shadows moved appropriately and the images in standing water were excellent. Occasionally, though, a detail just didn’t make sense. For instance, in spite of hurricane force winds and slanting rain, the beach umbrellas were immobile.

Trivia: The island of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Tonga may also be at risk of disappearing.2

Sinking Island offers a plentiful list of NPCs, each with peculiarities and problems. You interact often with them all (except Jones, of course). Though lifeless, the havoc Jones wrought reaches far and, as the investigation progresses, his devastating impact on the lives of all around him is revealed.

Jones’ attorney, de Nolent and his architect, Battaglieri are both in residence. Also, there are two islanders—the phlegmatic Kolio, and his beautiful, mute daughter, Baïna. Jones’ three grandchildren and their significant others complete the cast.

In spite of average character graphics, White Birds did a great job of rounding out these folks. Some I liked, some I despised, and some I just wished to avoid. Sadly, the character animation could be a bit distracting. 

Sometimes the characters’ mouths moved as they spoke; at other times, they didn’t. There was no attempt at syncing them with speech. That didn’t trouble me, but the arm and body movements did. Normally, I like to see small gestures—it brings the person to life. But here, it seemed jerky and overdone, reminding me of a marionette show. I could almost see the lines being pulled as arms and heads flailed about. Of course, one could argue that this jerky motion was designed intentionally to reflect the way Walter Jones pulled the life strings of those around him.

Trivia: In December, 2006 the inhabited island of Lohachara, near India, descended completely under water.5

Ambient sounds in this game are excellent. The background music is marvelous, enhancing the ambiance and evoking emotions, all the while letting the game be the star. I wish I could say as much for the voices. None of the voice acting was excellent, and none was horrible. At worst, it was flat and the prosody was off. At best, it was almost, but not quite, right.

I experienced one glitch. Jack disappeared from a scene during an interview. I had to drop back to a save to “find” him and continue onwards.

Trivia: Appearing on maps during the 1400’s, St. Brendan’s Isle is considered to be a phantom island as only a few have ever claimed to see it.1

Though a few utilize inventory, Sinking Island’s puzzles are mostly intrinsic. You must get the information you need from witnesses who have no inclination to cooperate with you, and perhaps several pressing reasons not to.

Most of the things you are asked to do are logical, but every now and again, one will miss the mark. For instance, Jack needs to get the footprints of one of the suspects. Though he follows this person for quite a distance along a sandy beach, does he stop and take the prints? No! Instead, he has to jump through a hoop or two before he can get this readily available crucial bit of evidence.

There are no timed bits, sliders, mazes, arcade sequences, or sound and/or color dependent puzzles. There is a slightly adult theme to one of the puzzles, but I’ve heard and seen more graphic things on network TV.

Trivia: Torca Island, a phantom island rumored to be in the Indian Ocean, is believed to have vanished in 1693 following a cataclysm of unknown origin.1

Overall, I enjoyed playing Sinking Island on both modes, though if I had tried timed first, I would have given it up as a bad job. Those gamers who have been frustrated with stories that leave you hanging will be glad to know that this game has an excellent ending exposition. Nevertheless, if dialogue is not your thing, then neither is this game.

Grade: B

Quick List:

3rd person perspective, nonlinear game

Mouse controlled


No Atl+Tab

Save at will/unlimited


PPA records conversations

A few inventory puzzles

No timed, arcade, mazes, sound or color puzzles

Twisting storyline

Play either timed or untimed

Expect to revisit territory and NPCs

Extensive list of NPCs but with jerky movement

Voice acting so-so

Background music adds much to the ambience

Special effects are right on 

I played on:

OS: Win XP Professional

Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad CPU @ 2.40 GHz

Ram: 3.25GB Dual Channel DDR2 667 w/ECC 2-DIMMs

Gx card: nVidia GE Force 8800 GTS

Sound card: Creative Labs Sound Blaster X-FI Xtreme Music


All trivia is taken from the following sources:

1. Wikipedia

2. Interesting Thing of the Day




October 2008


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