The Haunted Is­land, A Frog De­tec­tive Game

EDGE - - GAMES - De­vel­oper Grace Bruxner, Thomas Bowker Pub­lisher Grace Bruxner For­mat PC Re­lease Out now

PC

At 49 min­utes – in­clud­ing a very late con­tender for 2018’s best cred­its se­quence, not to men­tion a se­quel-teas­ing epi­logue – Grace Bruxner’s lo-fi first­per­son ad­ven­ture is the short­est game we’ve re­viewed in quite some time. And if it weren’t for Amanita De­sign’s (com­par­a­tively ful­some) Chuchel, it would be in with a strong shout for the fun­ni­est. An early di­a­logue ex­change lets you know ex­actly what you’re in for. “Who should I talk to first?” our am­phibi­ous hero de­mands. “You’re talk­ing to me al­ready!” comes the re­ply. “Okay,” the frog shoots back. “Who should I talk to sec­ond?” If that raised a smile, then you’ll likely be roy­ally en­ter­tained for the other 48 and a half min­utes.

The story be­gins with a phone call from your su­per­vi­sor, who prom­ises to put his best in­ves­ti­ga­tor on the tit­u­lar case – but since Lobster Cop isn’t avail­able, you’ll have to do. With mag­ni­fy­ing glass in hand, you set off for a charm­ing lit­tle trop­i­cal haven, where a sloth named Martin has been hav­ing sleep­less nights thanks to a se­ries of ghostly sounds com­ing from a nearby cave. With a hired team of ghost sci­en­tists un­able to re­solve the mys­tery, it’s up to you to do what they couldn’t. Though there’s not much real de­tec­tive work in­volved; rather, you’ll en­gage in some amus­ingly daft con­ver­sa­tions with the game’s an­thro­po­mor­phic cast to prompt a se­ries of fetch quests. Their re­quests are pretty weird – a nod, per­haps, to the genre’s clas­sics and their in­con­gru­ous puz­zles – but your ul­ti­mate aim is to gather the right items to make dy­na­mite in order to blow up the rub­ble cov­er­ing the cave en­trance. These in­clude a ball of wool and a plate of pasta – “So, the nor­mal ex­plo­sive in­gre­di­ents, then,” the frog muses.

And that, to all ex­tents and pur­poses, is your lot. You have a mag­ni­fy­ing glass, which you can hold up to zoom in on ob­jects and peo­ple with the right mouse but­ton, but it serves no broader pur­pose be­yond warp­ing the im­age and mak­ing the sim­ple char­ac­ters look slightly sil­lier. But then to com­pli­cate mat­ters any fur­ther would de­tract from the game’s main pur­pose as a de­liv­ery de­vice for gen­tly sur­real hu­mour. Its hit rate is un­usu­ally strong. There’s a de­light­ful ex­tended riff on the fac­tual ac­cu­racy (or oth­er­wise) of books com­pared to the in­ter­net, while the rudi­men­tary art and ba­sic an­i­ma­tion make some lines all the fun­nier: the dead­pan ex­pres­sions are a punch­line in and of them­selves. Its rough edges ex­tend to the odd typo and one or two ar­eas look un­fin­ished, but this en­dear­ingly scrappy ef­fort could teach big­ger games a thing or two about the value of good writ­ing.

Those ac­cus­tomed to the moral dilem­mas of mod­ern ad­ven­ture games will be pleased to learn that you’re given a de­ci­sion to make at the end. We daren’t re­veal what that is, but we ag­o­nised over it for a few sec­onds

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