Isoland choses to carry the point and click adventure banner—a genre famous for cryptic puzzles and narratives clothed with mystique and intrigue—but can it live up to the rich lineage from which it derives?
Isoland does a fantastic job of generating the aforementioned mystery by supplementing it with an enchanting aura that permeates the title screen and everything thereafter. It achieves this through its use of music and art. A tranquil melody welcomes the player at the main menu, thus setting the mystical tone early on.
We see the world through the eyes of Dr. Cotton, a man transported to a strange island to investigate—you guessed it—a mystery. The plot feels completely secondary. We gain insight into the world through letters and the island’s inhabitants, yet it never really progresses from there. After arriving at our destination via a rickety rowing boat, we get our first glimpse of the island in question. Those expecting to behold the photorealistic visuals seen in the Myst series will be disappointed, for this adventure employs more of a hand drawn art style with a pinch of Salvador Dali’s surrealism thrown in for good measure. Nevertheless, the exaggerated characters, rough backdrops, and vivid color pallet have a charm of their own. A draw back to this visual technique means that some locations look better than others. Moreover, it can sometimes be hard to discern what exactly is clickable.
This is a puzzler, so the graphics are meaningless if the puzzles aren’t up to snuff. We travel from enigma to enigma by taping on arrows that appear onscreen. Almost every environment has a riddle to solve or a clue to be gained, there in lies the game’s strengths and weaknesses. In my experience there are three ways to solve a problem. Some puzzles can be solved with relative ease through a modicum of guesswork and trial and error, while others are trickier.
There could be one, simple clue that will yield the answer you are looking for, or a plethora of them, leading you on a merry memory chase. This third and most irritating procedure sees you scouring the diverse screens in order to find a host of clues that, when put together, will solve the dilemma. However, there is one big problem with this—remembering them all. If you are playing Isoland on a train ride to work, you won’t have the ability to start drawing the clues on a piece of paper, leaving you stuck until your return home.
If you do get stuck between a rock and a hard place, Isoland offers a helpful hint system. You can get in game tips for watching in game commercials, or you can buy the answer for 99 cents. This type of purchasing is usually reserved for free to play titles. I could not help but feel that some puzzles were particularly troublesome for the sole purpose of persuading the player to watch an advertisement or buy the resolution.
Isoland is a fascinating mystery title brimming with a quirky art style and a cavalcade of eccentric characters. The puzzles themselves will no doubt be polarizing to some. Not only that, the power to buy your way out of a sticky situation for the cost of the game is a disappointing feature. With that being said, puzzle aficionados will easily be able to look past its flaws and discover an enjoyable experience.