VG Tribune

Radiation Island Review

March 24, 2018 / 12:29 AM

By: Jesse Waldack

Thanks to Nintendo Dads Podcast Patron Zach Bohannon for writing the following review for Radiation Island

Title: Radiation Island
Developer: Atypical Games
Publisher: Atypical Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 2/22/2018
Reviewed by: Zach Bohannon

As a fan of pretty much any game, book, or movie set in a post-apocalyptic world, I was excited to sit down with Radiation Island (Atypical Games). Its tropical setting combined with a promise of fighting zombies harkened me back to similar video games I’ve enjoyed in the past. But did this open-world survival horror game live up to my expectations?

Presentation

When you first boot up Radiation Island, it gives you three different gameplay options. Exploration acts as the game’s easy difficulty mode. This mode takes the dangerous wildlife out of the game, so you are unable to get hurt while playing. If you want to walk around and see what this open world has to offer without getting killed, this is the option for you.

The second mode is Adventure, which adds combat into the game. This mode, as the developers put right on the screen, is “the intended way to experience the game.”

Lastly is Survival, which cranks up the difficulty, and is suggested for seasoned players in the survival genre.

I took the developer’s suggestion and chose to play on Adventure.

Radiation Island opens with a quick cutscene which tries to give a quick explanation as to why you’re stranded on an island. It’s the early 1940s, and your character was part of a secret naval team experimenting with teleportation. Something goes wrong, and you end up on a mysterious island, and the ship you were on disappears. Simple enough.

As the game begins, you’re standing on a beach with nothing but some rags for clothes and a notebook. There are no onscreen instructions. This notebook acts as your tutorial for the game, as well as your pause menu screen. More on that in a minute.

While the graphics are decent, this seems like a good time to point out something that will be a recurring theme throughout this review. Radiation Island is a port of a game that was built for mobile and also was put on Steam before coming to the Nintendo Switch. The closer you get to trees, cabins, and the different wildlife that inhabit this open world, the more you notice the grainy textures. If I were playing this game on my phone, it would look amazing. But I expect more when I’m playing a dedicated video game console.

The music is more of an eerie drone and sits nicely in the background. It adds to the atmosphere and mystery of the game and makes you feel like there could be something around any corner just waiting to jump out at you. In a survival game, less is better when it comes to the soundtrack, and Radiation Island’s had me biting my fingernails.

The HUD is neatly laid out and easy to understand. Along the top, you have four icons. Each can easily be accessed with the touchscreen, which is nice. The first icon takes you to your crafting menu. You’ll be using this one a lot, as crafting is the name of the game in Radiation Island. Next is your health. Then you have the food icon. Food can be found all around the island in the form of bananas, pineapples, and other fruits. You can also hunt small game and cook it once you have a furnace built. This game does require you to eat, and your food meter will decrease the longer you go without eating. As long as you have food in your inventory, you can simply touch the icon, and your character will eat. The last icon brings up your inventory, which you can also access by pressing the Y button. Along the bottom of the screen are inventory favorites, allowing you to quickly access and equip the items you use the most.

Gameplay

At its heart, Radiation Island is a survival game. Crafting is the name of the game here, and Radiation Island does it very well. For your tutorial, you’re given a list of tasks in your notebook. This will teach you how to craft and use the essential items which will keep you alive in the game. The instructions are neatly laid out in the crafting menu, and each item has a description of what it is used for. This makes the game accessible for newcomers to the genre. I don’t play a lot of crafting games, but I was easily able to understand what I needed to build, and why I needed it. Exploring the island and finding items was enjoyable, though you quickly realize you’ll need to expand your inventory so you don’t have to keep running back to your cabin to drop stuff off. I also like the ability to change the default first-person view to a third-person view with the click of the right analog stick.

But for what the game boasts in crafting, it lacks greatly in combat. I quickly learned that combat is secondary to crafting in this game, and this is one of the places where it’s obvious that this game was built for mobile. Swinging a pickaxe at a rabbit feels unsatisfying, and shooting a rifle or an arrow at a bear both looks and feels lackluster. The first few times I encountered wolves, I spent half the fight spinning around trying to find them to hit them and drained half my health.  Fighting zombies should have been a high point of this game for me, but it was instead a passable experience.

Speaking of guns and bows, pressing the X button will automatically aim at your nearest target. This is certainly a necessity if you’re playing on your smartphone, but is a waste of a button on the Switch where you have two sticks to control with. I would have rather had jump mapped to X instead of having it resorted to the L button. Big miss.

Final Thoughts

If you’re expecting an action-packed zombie game, Radiation Island isn’t for you. This game is all about exploring, collecting resources, and building things you need to survive.

But if you are someone who enjoys crafting survival games, there is a lot of value here, and the game will likely provide you with hours of fun. Its low barrier to entry is also appealing for someone looking to get into the genre for the first time.

While I don’t love crafting survival games and lean more towards action, this was a game I wanted to enjoy and dive deeper into, as I love the post-apocalyptic theme and setting. If I had discovered the game on my smartphone, then I might have been more impressed by it. But a lackadaisical port to the Switch, combined with an unsatisfying combat system left a lot to be desired.

Thank you to Atypical Games for providing us with a review copy.

 

About the author /


Having played Intellivision and Atari games since he was six, Jesse has not only grown up with video games, but has seen just about everything. A husband and father of three teenagers, he still tries to squeeze in a game or three when he is able.

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