Destination Treasure Island Review (PC)

All together now, ďArrrrrrrrrr!Ē

I remember the good old days, the times when the words on everyoneís lips were Monkey Island, Full Throttle and Grim Fandango. I remember when ďI am rubber you are glueĒ was a pretty hip reference and you got knowing nods and winks from the gaming underground. My nights used to be long, scratching my head trying to solve some impossible puzzle that involves a spitting contest and Stan the zany salesman. Iím smiling as I write these words. Iím smiling at the humour that Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer effortlessly injected into these games. These games Iíll remember forever. These games that changed the way I view video games; the immersion, the intelligence, the wit, the superb writing: they had it all. They were of course all members of that relatively unheard of (by todayís gamerís standards) genre that was dubbed the Adventure Game.

This game with have you tied up in knots in some places!
How much is that parrot in the window? The one with the...err...enigma in his claws?

Now that time has come and gone and LucasArts wants to concentrate on identikit Star Wars games that are guaranteed to fail at encapsulating that air of magic that we fans have carried with us since childhood. They sell by the bucket load whilst locked in a safe somewhere, the paper going yellow and the ink fading, lies the script to Monkey Island 5. We just donít want to play these games any more and for the life of me I can never work out why and Destination: Treasure Island only reinforces my claim that Adventure Games are worth checking out, worth investing in and are still fun to play. Itís not without its flaws as no game is, but is however a thoroughly enjoyable game and for around twenty of your English pounds you canít really go wrong.

Setting Sail

The game is developed by Kheops Studios and published by Nobilis. You might recognise Kheops from being the team responsible for the also very good, The Secrets of Da Vinci: The Forbidden Manuscript amongst others.

Destination: Treasure Island is set four years after the original story by R.L. Stevenson and you assume the role of the former look-out who found the treasure map, Jim Hawkins. Jim is now a little older (four years to be exact! Ė Ed.) and has since acquired his own ship. He like many others assumes Mr. Silver himself is dead is doing whatever it is Pirates with no treasure to hunt or ships to plunder until one night Longís Johnís parrot, Captain Flint pays him a visit and it is here your adventure begins. Viewing everything from the first person, you (Jim) receive an enigma and it is this riddle that the core puzzle solving is based around. You read a few lines of rhyme and this gives you clues as to how you can proceed pass each obstacle.

What sets out as a simple treasure hunt soon becomes a lot more complicated as you learn that you are being followed by a group of blood-thirsty, rum swigging, scallywags and there seems to be a strange monster growling somewhere in the distance. This creates a sense of urgency to your quest but not without a certain amount of trepidation.

The game is awash with scenery like this
You toucan enjoy this game. Itís very accessible to everyone

Puzzle Assembly

Adventure games are all about the puzzles and story. The story is a well thought-out yarn that contains depth and creativity and the same can be said of the puzzles. This doesnít mean that theyíre too difficult, although there are a few real head-scratchers in there. The enigma that has been handed to you is always a good reference point as to what you should be doing but as it is written in ye olde English, deciphering some of the antiquated phrasing can sometimes be a puzzle in itself.

As you gather objects on your journey, a simple right click and you are at your inventory screen where many of the items you are carrying can be disassembled and the various parts reassembled with disassembled parts of other items. Make sense? Well, to confuse things further, after youíve reassembled two different assembled parts to make a new object, you might then find that you have to disassemble your reassembled items and reassemble your re-disassembled bits and assemble them into the objects they were in the first place. Confused now? Well you better be, because after writing that I am! As I said, some of them will keep you up at night, mostly in a good way.

It is here however, that the all too familiar gripes with adventure games enter the arena: some of the solutions to the puzzles donít seem to make any logical sense. So a great deal of trial and error and fumbling in the dark without some clear idea of how and why youíre trying to combine a caulking iron and a handful of sand to make lever but it might just do something. Or maybe itís just me thatís crap?

Also, theyíve included some highly annoying multiple choice knot tying mini-games. Basically, if Jim is trying to moor his raft he needs to tie a specific knot in order to secure it. Here you are presented with two pictures of the next stage in the tying process and you can either choose one or the other. If you get it right you go to the next step, if you get it wrong then itís back to step one. As these sequences can sometimes have ten stages, youíll find that you fail at stage seven and then not remember the correct answer for step four and have to start over many times. So just to get out of your boat can take an annoying five minutes to complete some inconsequential arbitrary task. There really was no need to include them.

Pieces of 8-bit?

I remember when the old text adventures first had some graphics to accompany the text. The screen was divided in two and you had the mess of teletext graphics doing their level best to resemble a mountain stream or a picturesque skyline. Well those days are thankfully well and truly behind us and Destination: Treasure Island is testament to this as it really is a sight to behold. Finely detailed jungle foliage complete with all manner of wildlife and insects roaming about, crabs scuttling across dried seaweed on the expansive white sandy beaches to name but just one idiosyncracy. The water too, shimmers in the suns rays and the whole package is very well put together from a graphical perspective.
As far as the cut-scenes go Kheops made a clever design decision. Whether they had budget constraints are they simply thought the idea was a cool one, they decided to do away with FMVís and instead simply use some etched drawings of action scenes together with some rousing classical music in order to tell the story. I actually like this idea. Itís a simple way to tell a story and somehow made you feel you were reading a book more than engaging in a video game which I gather is the point with this game.
Capín Jack Sparrow you ainít!

The experience is not without flaws and annoyances. I found Jim Hawkins to be rather overbearing. He has this wide-eyed, schoolboy like approach to everything and his whiter than white image was something that I couldnít empathise with and thus my enthusiasm to help him on his quest dwindled. Also given my history with this sort of title in the past, having the odd joke in an adventure game to ease the pain of trying to solve a puzzle seems commonplace. However, Destination: Treasure Island completely lacked any sort of humour. That doesnít necessarily have to be a bad thing when the plot and game atmosphere demand it, but when youíve got a singing parrot with which you can talk to and ask questions, it seems only fair that the odd quip should turn up every now and again.

Everything is viewed from the first person perspective

Destination: Treasure Island is a good game. In fact if you like Adventures, Iíd say that given the slating they have been given over the years, it is very good. If you havenít tried a game like this before then Keopsí pirate romp is definitely a good place to start. You are puppy walked through the first few puzzles and the learning curve thereafter is very manageable. The plot is solid enough although it can get a bit too coincidental at times. That being said it is definitely engaging enough for you to want to know what happens next. On top of all this, if you consider the game is readily available as a budget price of under twenty pounds you canít really go wrong. In short, this game coupled with the recent confirmation of a sequel to Telltaleís take on SamíníMax could just be the resurgent spark that the genre needs. If that flicker gets to be a flame is up to us and our wallets. Letís bring the glory days back.

Top Game Moment:
Completing the cannonball puzzle. Itís a real toughie!