Our Island

by Patrick Williams

Fantasy
2013

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Good groundwork, but needs way more work., March 6, 2013
by Wade Clarke (Sydney, Australia)
Related reviews: Inform

Our Island appears at first, and mostly, to be a lyrical holiday game set in an idyllic seaside community. You can wander along Wharf Street, buy an ice cream from the pretty ice cream girl, look for flotsam and jetsam, observe local wildlife and feel sparkly about life as you note the presence of the local community centre. Admittedly the majority of these things are only implemented at a very rudimentary level, and some only exist in the location description text, but there's still no denying the game's coherent and romantic sense of place. The map is big and demands real mapping with pen and paper, at least if the player isn't to miss anything. This is also assuming the player makes it past the painful intro, which is basically a My Apartment game set in a holiday house where you have to fight with an inventory limit.

The trick with Our Island is that there's a whole other level of play in it, one involving puzzles and unexpected zaniness, but it's so obscurely integrated into an outwardly goal-less holiday game that it's a huge ask of players to (a) even identify that it's there and (b) negotiate it and solve it especially with Our Island being in as rough a state as it is. Presenting a rich environment and then slowly allowing the player to become aware of some upheaval within it can make for a great dramatic design, but it demands strong execution to be successful. The biggest problem for Our Island is its erratic implementation. If the player starts to sense that more than half the interesting-looking content in the game is just painted on, they're going to stop checking the content. And in the cases where the content is relevant to the puzzles, the game doesn't signal it. There's also just tons of plain old bugs, typos, failures to describe exits, scenes that play at the wrong times, and even the odd location with no description. So for now, the game's island-sized ambitions considerably outstrip its quality of delivery. The groundwork for something great is here, and I already enjoyed exploring the environment, but the whole thing needs lots more work.