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
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.
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.
Islands average only one to two square kilometers in area, and lie between
one and 1.5 meters above mean sea level.1
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
Trivia: The beaches of
about a third of the two hundred inhabited islands of the Maldives are
being swept away.3
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Whale-Skate Island, a home to seabirds, seals, and turtles
near Hawaii has vanished.4
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.
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
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.
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
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.
In December, 2006
the inhabited island of Lohachara, near India, descended completely under
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
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
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.
Torca Island, a phantom island rumored to be in the Indian
Ocean, is believed to have vanished in 1693 following a cataclysm of
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.
3rd person perspective, nonlinear game
Save at will/unlimited
PPA records conversations
A few inventory puzzles
No timed, arcade, mazes, sound or color puzzles
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
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:
2. Interesting Thing of the Day