iPad Game Review: Destination Treasure Island

Treasure Island is a beloved classic that has inspired many renditions on stage and screen, as well as many sequels and other add-on tales by a variety of artists in a variety of media. The reason it is such a great work to extend and revisit is that the characters are believable, likeable and work very well within their environment. Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins are wonderful characters and the tales of bravery, honor, friendship and of course piracy fuel the long-standing love for the pair. Destination: Treasure Island was originally released for the PC back in 2007 and has now been ported to the iPad. The game picks up the tale four years after the end of the original Treasure Island; after Long John has died and left his belongings to Jim Hawkins, including a riddle that will send him off on a grand adventure.

The Hype:

Four years have passed since the end of the adventure recounted in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel. Jim Hawkins has become an upstanding adventurous young man, attentive to those around him. Imagine his surprise when, one morning, he sees a parrot enter his bedroom window : none other than Captain Flint, Long John’s own companion. The bird brings him a message from his master. In the message the old pirate announces that he has buried a marvelous treasure on the secret isle where he retired : Emerald Island. Jim is going to have to hurry though. Pirates, old enemies of Long John, are on his trail.

The Reality:

Thus is how this captivating game starts – you are immediately faced with the prospects of escaping from your ship, as some former associates come seeking revenge. This is a great introduction to the gameplay; you are in first person perspective and need to search for clues to accomplish tasks. These include finding items around the room, combining them into useful forms and also tying knots. But the most important thing that happens in the opening scene is that you get a note from Long John – a note that just might lead to all of his treasure! So, once you manage to escape from your captors, you have the basis of your skills and the quest.

The rest of the game sees you following the clues from Long John’s enigma, assisted by his parrot along the way. Each little bit you decipher is a clue that leads you to new areas, complete with new puzzles and traps. You can decipher the enigma in any order you want (more or less), but the gameplay is still fairly linear.

Technically the game works well but it’s clearly a relatively small-scale project – and in this regard I am referring to the original PC game that the iPad version was ported from. The graphics are very impressive in general – from the start of the game you will be surprised at how nice everything looks. The art and details are all very well done, yet unlike so many other genre games (the PC game Dead Reefs comes to mind) the island never feels alive – nothing moves in the environment other than the occasional bird. This might sound minor, but part of the immersion in any adventure game is the feeling that you are part of a living world – and this one isn’t. The amount of action you encounter in an area is very limited too, tending to repeat from place to place. That is not to say that the graphics are bad, because they’re not – there are just limitations that clearly mark this as a budget entry. The same is not true of the voice acting and soundtrack though; both are very well done and the singing really puts you in the pirating spirit. Yaarrrgh!

The controls work very well and are refreshingly familiar – the developers didn’t try anything fancy or new, sticking instead with conventional touch-driven action throughout, with occasional screen assists that are identified and explained from the start. This method of control could get a bit tricky in full 360-degree freedom, but fortunately there are no ‘pixel hunts’ – all items are clearly visible and you can immediately tell whether or not you can interact with an object. While I appreciate innovation in a game in terms of design, when doing something familiar I appreciate when developers take a standard approach – sometimes smaller developers choose non-standard methods to differentiate themselves, so I was glad when I started playing Destination: Treasure Island and was immediately able to make progress with little difficulty and focus on actually playing the game. Kudos for getting the simple things right.

An adventure game might be augmented or limited by technical details, but at its core it is all about the story and puzzles. As I already mentioned, the story is linear and directed, but it all works and is a satisfying adventure that will take most gamers many hours to work through – not epic in scale, but about average for most PC adventure games of recent years. The cut scenes are a nice touch, as they are presented in a graphic novel style, making you really feel more like you are part of a storybook come to life. The flow makes sense, as everything you are doing comes from the initial scene and makes sense – you are solving a large and elaborate riddle with multi-faceted clues and the end-goal of some major treasure. The game is fairly friendly to those new to adventure games in that there is no hardcore violence, insta-death scenarios or other things to get them stuck.

The puzzles are not going to challenge experienced adventure gamers, but neither are they annoying time wasters … well, that might depend on the gamer. The majority of puzzles are based on combining inventory items in the right manner to produce useful items to move the plot along. Most significant are the knot tying exercises – these I very much enjoyed because of my time as a Scout leader teaching kids to tie a variety of knots. It wasn’t too torturous to my kids when I tested them on the knots, because they remembered all the easy ones and I wasn’t a pain about the ones they didn’t remember. My older son pointed out the problem with them – even without knowing how to tie them, it is simple enough to just guess your way through. That is true with the majority of the puzzles – logic is easily replaced with guesswork. While that is true with any puzzle, many other games have puzzles so complex that guesswork could take days of effort.

I love the original Robert Louis Stevenson story, the old Gary Cooper film adaptation and even the re-imagined Treasure Planet film, so I was very much anticipating digging into Destination: Treasure Island. While it won’t end up on any ‘game of the year’ lists, it is a satisfying and fun experience that frames beloved characters and settings within a nice extension of the original story. Enjoyable for most members of the family both in terms of difficulty and content, Treasure Island might just be the right destination for your next gaming adventure!

Review: Destination: Treasure Island

Where to Buy: iTunes App Store

Price: $4.99

What I Like: Excellent visuals, music and voice acting; controls work perfectly; intriguing story; long adventure is very much worth $5!

What Needs Improvement: Too easy to guess your way through puzzles; Nothing feels ‘alive’.

Source: Review code provided by publisher

Note: I inadvertantly trashed my screenshots, so thanks to Softpedia and the publisher Coladia for their images!

Categories: Gaming, Reviews


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