Jules Verne - Return to Mysterious Island
Release date: 11/2004
Developer: Kheops Studio
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Game language and manual: German
USK: rating for everyone
A review by MaryScots 7th December 2004
"Return to Mysterious Island" is the third game by the French developer team Kheops Studio following The Egyptian Prophecy (Egypt 3)" and Crystal Key 2 (Evany)". It has been inspired by Jules Vernes classic The Mysterious Island", third and final book of the trilogy around Captain Nemo and his legendary submarine, the Nautilus". The novel tells the story of five Americans whose hot-air balloon gets into heavy gales over the Pacific Ocean, after they succeeded in escaping the American Civil War. They manage a forced landing on an island and from now on have to depend on their knowledge and resourcefulness, which helps them not only to survive but also to make themselves quite comfortable on the island.
Leap in time: 150 years later young solo navigator Mina joins the Jules-Verne-Trophy, a round-the-world-race alone on her boat. During a storm she is washed overboard and awakens on the beach of a seemingly uninhabited island. The only item left to her is her PDA but unfortunately it ran almost out of power leaving her with no possibility to call for help, let alone having a chance of determining her whereabouts by means of the GPS. Only the news system contains two articles offering some information on her sailing trip and its progress so far.
Mina is on her own from now on just like the Americans have been in Vernes novel. She will have to find food and a means to leave the island. But during her first night in this unfamiliar surrounding, Mina dreams or doesnt she? The ghost of Captain Nemo appears and tells her that he roams the island for years now. He beseeches Mina to find his body, bury it and thus give his soul eternal rest.
The Adventure Company presents us Return to Mysterious Island" on two CDs packed in a DVD case including a manual, a fairly modest packaging but not too bad considering the retail price of less than 30 Euros. The installation runs smooth and quick and we may directly enter the game from the final setup window. Automatically the game is fully installed and there is no need to leave the CD in the drive while playing. At this point I should perhaps mention that although, according to the information on the cover the program is copy protected but not by an extra software such as StarForce, which means that entering and verification of a code is not requested.
After launching the program we see the main menu where we can choose between starting a new game, loading a saved one, viewing the picture gallery and the credits, entering the options menu or exiting the program.
In the picture gallery we can later watch cut scenes and sometime during the game we will find some little surprises here after having scored enough points.
The options menu enables us to switch between hard- and software rendering, we can change the speed of camera movement from slow to medium or fast and subtitles may be switched on or off. The volume control only allows the entire sound to be adjusted, not separating voices, sound effects and music, which btw. is not necessary anyway.
The game play is classical and intuitive point & click completely controlled by mouse. All settings contain several areas in which interactions are possible. The cursor in the shape of a small golden shell always "sticks" to the centre of the 360° vision range and contains a blinking white spot if moving forward to another area is possible. The spot changes to a hand when items can be picked up. As soon as interaction with an object is requested the cursor will show a cogwheel which sometimes is marked with a red slash informing us that manipulation at this point is not yet possible or another item is needed to interact. Now and then texts or pictures can be examined more closely when the cursor changes to a magnifying glass. When it gets really exciting the cursors shape becomes a reticule. Interaction is as easy as can be. A click on the our left mouse button picks up items and one more left click will combine an item with another one selected in the inventory.
Now, by right click lets have a look at the core of every classic adventure game the inventory. Wow, now thats quite something in this game! In one area all collected items will initially be stowed and then should be arranged either manually or by one click on the "Auto"-button. We do have one unique kind of a workshop here, containing 224! compartments allocated on 8 layers where we can drop our findings. Sounds confusing? It is rather convenient really because during the course of the game we collect everything we can get our cursor on and that is quite a lot. It is in fact wise to use one layer for tools, one for food, one for raw materials, etc. Just beneath we have a veritable "work bench". Here we combine objects or prepare food for consumption. An additional pad is provided enabling us to disassemble these combined objects by dragging and clicking them on the pad. Later the encyclopaedia pad works just the same way in order to obtain information on raw materials or technical devices. As soon as we click on an object information will be given in text form in the window at the bottom of the inventory. We can also access the main menu, Minas mobile phone with news and encyclopaedia modes as well as a kind of journal which provides information on our progress in the game so far and hints on what has to be done next. Furthermore we find the score indicator, a portrait of our heroine, which shows her present status or rather equipment, and a compartment reserved for Jep, the monkey, our little companion and helper, as soon as Mina finds him.
The main menu is already vividly animated by a little monkey playing with butterflies dancing around him with birds singing and the rush of the ocean waves in the background and all this accompanied by a jolly south American guitar and panpipe tune. Now and then this theme repeats itself in variations while we explore the island. The game starts with a video sequence in which we watch our pretty heroine waking up on the beach and having a first look around. A pity that this would be all we will see of her in all her beauty until the end sequence as the cut scenes showing us from time to time that Mina eats or Captain Nemo speaking to her in her dream are comic style black and white freeze images. During the course of the game we wander through a completely pre-rendered island world, which is simply beautiful and very realistically drawn. In contrast to other games using similar graphics I was amazed by the vividness created here. The waterfall rushes animated and roaring over and down the cliffs and the droplets spray where it hits the earth. The waves visibly roll ashore and screaming seagulls circle in the sky. Returning to the fire place after a while we will only find the ashes glowing red but as soon as we move the cursor over it the flame comes crackling back to life. The fact that this island adventure is accompanied almost all the time by sounds and noises one would expect to hear on such a lonely spot somewhere in the middle of an ocean made it more atmospheric and drew me stronger into the game world. Music is rarely used when accessing a new area or when the tension builds. The themes always support the mood of the respective location e.g. entering a cave is accompanied by a rather gloomy ambient tune and are only played one in order to not interfere with the feeling of loneliness. From time to time the islands active volcano attracts our attention by heavy trembling of the screen and a loud rumbling just to remind us that this idyll also holds dangers.
All in all the skilful combination of realistic, lively graphics and suitable sound effects accounts for a good part of the games attractiveness. The fact that the developers based the design of those settings which already played an important part in Jules Vernes novel - such as the farm and its windmill or the cave - on drawings of its first edition.
As Mina is alone on the island we only hear her voice when she finds and describes new objects. Only once during Minas dream we hear the voice of Captain Nemo. The voice acting is German but inscriptions and documents remain in English. The translation appears on close-up view of the text in a window at the bottom of the screen.
A lot of exercises are simply collecting all seizable items. Most of the objects are well visible but we should not only search on the ground or at eye level. Sometimes we have to dig, need other devices or the help of Jep who can be equipped with smaller tools or inventory objects. Things we are not able to pick up or interact with cannot be examined either.
The main part of the puzzles consists of combining items whereby we can create tools by different means. For example to light a fire we always need 3 items: two combustible materials and a tool to enkindle them. One time we can choose whether we want to get over an obstacle by action or by logic, the latter scoring fewer points though! In this situation we have as much time as we need to succeed in the action part and we can keep track of the progress of our battle by means of a status bar shown in the upper screen part. Later we encounter one time-dependent puzzle, which we can repeat as often as needed, and some decoding-, slide- and a mechanical puzzle. Those who paid attention earlier in the game get some help in solving these puzzles. Close to the end we can solve a sound puzzle, which awards extra points but is not necessary for our success. Though Mina can die we do not have to load an earlier save game as the game restores us to the last save area prior to the dangerous part. The action puzzles only have a 5% share in the games puzzle lot.
At this point I would like to remark that as far as I can tell saving is possible as often as we want and at any time. The save games are not nameable but will automatically be provided with date, time and a screenshot of the current location.
The level of difficulty changes circa in the middle of the game. While in the beginning one feels like Robinson Crusoe, using everything nature provides things now become scientific. If we have found a way to recharge Minas phone battery we receive useful information from the integrated encyclopaedia. The puzzles are well integrated in the story, throughout logical and in case of doubt we can always try and combine each and every item. Only the actual number of items can become somewhat aggravating in the games progress and those who did not arrange their objects may lose overview.
Another game feature is the afore mentioned awarding of points for each found and collected item, each constructed object and their successful use. The fact that we can create tools from various items and also may eliminate our opponents by different means made me want to replay the game and triggered my ambition to gain all achievable points. I am not quite certain about the maximum number of points but it is definitely more than 300. We will also be rewarded with a nice bonus every time we score a full hundred.
In the end I really had a lot of fun playing Return to the Mysterious Island" although it was quite a short pleasure of about 10 hours. I might have succeeded quicker than that if the sheer amount of items had not confused me so badly later on. It was actually entertaining to explore the island and its hidden spots but I expected more after playing the demo. In comparison a lot of time is needed to make yourself comfortable on the island, that is to look for food and tools, but after a certain point in the game when we know where we are heading it became harder to concentrate on what smaller tasks had to be accomplished first, the spirit of exploration suffered and the speed in playing accelerated. From this moment I had a sneaking suspicion that there was not enough story to drive on the action accordingly. The really beautiful graphics and atmospheric sound along with the explorer feeling in the first half of the game and the not too difficult, sometimes very interesting puzzles though justify a recommendation to all fans of the genre even those who, like myself, do not get overly excited about first person adventures in 360° surroundings.
Rating: 76 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP
- Pentium III 800 Mhz
- 64 MB RAM
- 16x CD-ROM/DVD-ROM-drive
- 64 MB DirectX 9 compatible graphic card
- DirectX 9 compatible sound card
- 1 GB on hard drive
- Windows XP
- Pentium IV 2,6 Ghz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM SD-616 Samsung
- Sapphire Radeon Atlantis 256 MB graphic card
- Creative Soundblaster Live! 5.1 sound card
Roaring waterfall at the beach
Idyll of a palm grove
Encountering a cobra
Comic style cutscene
Fight the apes!
Investigating the farm
A picturesque volcano
Looking for raw material
Hot sulfur springs
The granite house
A subterranean cave
The ravages of time
Captain Nemo's holy of holies