(A very enjoyable month-and-a-half and 3012 moves of IF! Blighted Isle - Details (ifdb.org))
A True Adventure
A loyal seaman of His King’s Fleet, thrown off his ship in a terrible storm, thrown off his ship and into an indefinite time on an indefinite island.
What comes next, for the protagonist as well as the player, is adventure at its best: an unknown island full of apparently normal characters who always have something more to say than you would expect, and many clues as to why this island is not quite what it seems to be at first glance.
First, let me point out some negatives:
-There’s a bug whenever you try to take something big through a narrow passage. A simple error message would have been disconcerting enough in a game as polished as this one, but a screen-and-a-half of detailed error-analysis took me out of the game enough to take a small break and pretend it never happened.
-It’s frustrating that the game not only provides the option, but actively guides the player into making promises she’s unable to keep. I spent many, many turns on trying to get back to the south-side to help my favourit NPC. This was made even worse when I found an object that could supposedly cut through rock, and then it didn’t. Despite my unleashing all my powers of experimentation and SAVE-retry-RESTORE on it.
With those frustrations out of the way, let me continue to the amazing game Blighted Isle really is.
I tend to pay a lot of attention to the use of space, the connection of locations,the sense of a bigger world. Blighted Isle takes place on an island, which gives it a natural boundary. It’s enclosed by water (obviously…) which is then encircled by a mysterious fog. There are a good number of hilltops to look out over the rest of the land. These facts together already make for a nice mix of claustrophobic (the barriers) and wide-open (the inlands). Append to that the promise of the land beyond, and the first part of the game is masterpiece of balancing the player’s need to finding out every single thing there is to know against the story’s drive to get to the North.
I cannot praise Blighted Isle enough for its characters. I refuse to call them NPCs. NPC, despite its obvious technical definition, draws images of cardboard and plastic. The Personages in Blighted Isle are much more than that. To experience the game/story to its fullest, you must ask them about anything that seems relevant to their backstory. Some responses moved me to tears. Good writing, that is…
But then, this personal form of writing loveable characters can also fall to bits. A young lady asking me if I Love her, or merely Like her, while we are crossing a plateau in between an unknown and possibly dangerous mountainous landscape seems a bit out of place…
Some of the puzzles flow naturally out of the conversations with the different NPCs. There are a few fetch-quests, some of which I could not (frustratingly) finish because they are tied to certain characters.
Other puzzles are quite common-sense, which can present an extra difficulty in an adventure game. (We’re not used to normal-day-physics…)
The most important impression I got from playing Blighted Isle is “Adventure”.
Not as a descendant of the original ADVENT, but as an interactive version of the children’s books of Astrid Lindgren and Thea Beckman.
(EDIT: this is the shortest paragraph of this review, but it should be taken as the most serious. Any even slightly positive comparison to Astrid Lindgren or Thea Beckman is high praise.)
A real adventure.