Sinking Island - PC - Review
Sinking Island is an adventure game from Benoit Sokal, the creator of Syberia. Sinking Island is no Syberia, however, and while not a bad game, it’s not a game that will stay in anyone’s memory for very long after play has ended.
This is a classic “mystery in a closed room” type of game on the lines of Christie’s And Then There were None. There are ten suspects on a small atoll in the ocean, and one of them is the culprit. As Jack Norm, it’s your job to investigate the murder of the owner of the atoll, and discover whodunit. Similarly to Hercule Poirot’s methods, you will need to use the little grey cells and combine clues and psychology to successfully conclude the case.
Walter Jones was an old geezer, but his demise was still untimely. Someone pushed him off a cliff in his wheelchair and he did not survive the fall. The suspects on the island are members of his family, their significant others and a few employees. As Walter Jones was not a nice person, everyone on the island had a reason for murder.
Sinking Island is an adventure game, but one that is designed as a police procedural, rather like a “Law and Order” game I played several years ago. The alignment with actual police work is tighter, which is intriguing at first. Basically, players will talk to every suspect exhaustively many times, asking them about various other conversations and found clues. All of these items will be kept in a PPA (Personal Police Assistant), which does everything but your laundry. The items can be examined alone and together with other clues, which will elicit new information. These clues are kept on the right side of the PPA, while the left side is for placing items to solve the different “mandates” of the mystery. These mandates are basically items in a task list, to help break up the assignment of solving the murder into manageable pieces.
As mentioned above, at first this looks and sounds pretty neat. However, the PPA soon becomes overly cluttered with a myriad of clues and conversations, which makes it a bit confusing and time consuming to find just the right clues and conversations to place in the left-hand tray and thus solve the mystery. And, even if this does take a bit of time, it’s not difficult. The PPA takes most of the guesswork out of the gruntwork.
I enjoyed the way the Inspector questioned his subjects and the method of interrogation; the items and people he wanted to ask about were in the bottom menu, and players clicked on the different things to ask the questions. Watching the characters during these conversations was a bit odd, though, as no one’s mouth opened while speaking, and they all made the same stiff arm movements while speaking. This stiffness that so often accompanies 3D animations in PC games is the main reason I prefer cartoon animation, which is usually smoother in appearance. However, the characters look very good when they are presented in a stationary manner and aren’t moving.
This is a French game which is translated to English for the North American market. The translation is handled rather badly. The remarks and comments are jarring and sound really strange. The Inspector keeps saying “I’m distracted” when players direct him to talk to someone who has nothing else to say about the murder at the time. Nobody says that. One of the female characters says she had been looking forward to trying out her bikini, but would have to forego that pleasure for now. That sounded really odd when she had just expressed sorrow over her grandfather’s murder. In one conversation one of the grandsons of Walter Jones uses a very crude expression for sex, which again sounded jarring in the context of the conversation he was having with the Inspector. And the excited manner and verbal expressions the male characters use when describing the female suspects to the Inspector, is again, just plain odd.
There are other odd things. The plot centers around the huge tower that Walter Jones had built on this island. Apparently it may cause the island to sink? I’m not sure, but is that possible? It’s not like islands are just pieces of rock floating around the ocean. They’re anchored to the earth. Can something extremely heavy sink an island? I need a smart person to answer that question for me. And, just a thought, if the tower designer was convinced that the tower was unsafe now architecturally, why would he be staying there? I don’t think I would. Suicide by tower?
Apparently, rain has no effect on these people. The storm doesn’t keep anyone inside the building; they love to wander around in the rain. There is no staff in the Tower, which means everyone is fending for his or herself. Yet, people were sitting at the dining room eating what looked like prepared dinners. Maybe they are all good cooks. Another funny thing, during interrogations, characters will say the most awful things about other people to the Inspector, while these people are standing right there while they are speaking.
The voice acting, despite the words coming out of their mouths, is pretty fair. The tones and modulations are handled nicely. The occasional music is muted and low-key. This game should have had much more music to fit the somber and dark mood.
I was prepared to enjoy this game, as I really liked Syberia and thought the police procedural method was a good idea. But, the constant traveling back and forth to question suspects became tiring, and the method of sifting through all the clues to solve each mandate was a chore after awhile. The story could have lifted interest, but the odd conversations with each suspect caused the story to lose appeal. The PPA was a great idea, as well, but in reality it did a bit too much for the players. Overall, Sinking Island is just an average adventure game, not bad, but not all that good, either.
Review Scoring Details for Game Name
The gameplay begins interestingly enough, but soon bogs down into strange and lengthy conversations. The method of using the PPA to solve the crime also seems fun initially, but it’s too easy, and yet at the same time too time-consuming.
The game looks pretty good, with nice backgrounds and good details for the environments. The rain, wind and water all look great. The characters are not drawn as well, though, and are stiff and oddly animated while speaking to the Inspector.
The music is sparse and strangely absent much of the time.
There isn’t anything that is particularly difficult except for the combining the clues to solve each piece of the mystery.
Sinking Island has several good concepts, but the execution, while good in a technical sense, doesn’t translate into a lot of enjoyment.
Sinking Island looks good and plays well at first, but the myriad oddities eventually drag the game down. It’s hard to stay immersed in the story, and the methods of solving the mandates become more like chores after awhile than fun things to do. Hopefully, the next game to come from White Birds Production will be more fun.