Review: Return to the Mysterious Island

Miasmata is one of my favorite games, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it easily. It takes a certain kind of player to enjoy it. It has a somewhat awkward interface, and it doesn’t hold your hand at all. It’s also very sparse, i.e. it doesn’t keep rewarding you every five minutes. It’s very much an exploration game where the journey is a big part of the experience. That said it’s super immersive if you are into it, and the challenge makes every small progress feel like a real achievement. I personally love opaque games with awkward interfaces when I sense that there is love and rough quality behind it, because the effort to learn it makes the whole experience even deeper and more personal for me (other examples are FMV adventures like the Myst and Journeyman Project games). And this games has a lot of that.


@rmartins I’m glad to hear someone else has played it. I like to think I’m pretty patient but I guess we’ll see.

Is it the kind of thing you need a walkthrough for and where you might get stuck, or is it just a lot of effort?

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I also picked up Return to Mysterious Island 2 — or "Return to Return to Mysterious Island " I guess.

I quickly ran into some fairly opaque puzzles. At least two mandatory puzzles gives you no visual feedback. In the first puzzle you have to use a level, as in the tool, to pixel hunt around several scenes. You only get an indication that you’ve found the thing after you’ve found it…and I don’t think there are any hints that you need to build or use the required tool.

In the other puzzle, you need to arrange a sort of symbolic multiplication table with small stone tiles. In the first game, logic puzzles were usually machine-based, so they would light up green when you got something correct. The green light helps you to infer the rule. That doesn’t happen with stone tiles.

I’m about 3/4 of the way through and now I have to feed several monkeys to win them over and it’s testing my patience. I don’t think I’m going to finish this.

However, RTMI2 starts out quite a lot like the first game — with lots of non-mandatory puzzles, plus some mandatory machine puzzles that were re-used from the first game. It even gets more difficult exactly when you enter the area that wasn’t part of the original game.

The sequel was made five years after the original, but I wonder if there were extra puzzles that weren’t used in the first game. Maybe the developers wanted to release them but felt the need to add more?

Now that I think about it … the jungle cat that was foreshadowed in the first game shows up in the second, so that’s more evidence in favor of cut content being used in the sequel.

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You know, I have absolutely no idea whether I played that one.


You know, I have absolutely no idea whether I played that one.

Like I say, the first part of the sequel re-uses most of the first game’s locations so it kind of blends in with the first. Any chance you started and gave up?

There was another earthquake btw. This time I think it did it by shaking the canvas, though it’s hard to tell. Still not sure what was going on in the first game.

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I don’t think you’ll need a walkthrough, no. There are no “puzzles” in the classical sense, but there are certain goals you need to achieve, like collecting the right things then combining them in the right way. The gameplay loop consists in exploring an open island and gathering ingredients to assemble the cure for a disease, while managing resources and fighting off a nemesis. As you explore you’ll find notes and objects that will slowly tell the story of the game.

It sounds a bit like these Minecraft-inspired craft/survival games but it came out earlier and it’s a much more personal, slower experience. For example, in order to build your map you have to triangulate your position based on other known landmarks that you have already visited and are on your current field of vision. And in order to build the cure you have to actually do some experimentation with ingredients based on a few hints that show up here and there. There is little to no UI and getting lost in the jungle is a real danger, so every bit of progress you make feels really nice (if you’re invested, of course).


Thanks! I bought this a while ago on discount and I’m really looking forward to playing through it.

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A very obscure, large and difficult TADS game is Steve Barrera’s Reefer Island. As the title would suggest it is a mission to assemble the parts for a decent mind mash while stranded on an island. It is very easy to die or screw up in the manner of the day.

A strange surreal atmosphere pervades this one. A bit like Isle Of The Cult meets Withnail and I. Monkeys, Officialdom, Telescopes and Natives frequent the island.

I had a dialogue with Steve a few years ago and he was considering rewriting it but nothing has been forthcoming.

I recommend this one if you like to turn and face the strange.


I loved and still love Cutthroats for its well-made island setting. It is generally considered to have design flaws especially regarding the end game, but I can’t remember any other game that made me so excited about being an adventurer on a small island.

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