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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.