Ready for an Adventure?
This game has a real mixed bunch of reviews, and I have a guess why! Adventure Island is cooperative story-telling adventure game. You play as a group of people stuck on an island after a plane crashed on route to India. Your job is to work together and survive whatever the island throws at you. The game is best for families as the gameplay is more choose your own adventure than real strategy. I sense though that some people were expecting something more advanced.
The rules are also a little brutal, most notably with the timing aspect of the game. Especially in the first few rounds where you run out of time before you know it. As such, we have a game that is hard, but designed for families. Not a great mix. However, there are a few very minor rules adjustments you can make if you are happy to do so. In order to make the game a little easier just give yourself more time. This make this the perfect family adventure game and I really enjoyed it with my five and seven year old. It won’t ever be the perfect hard-core gamers adventure. But if you are looking for a story-based game to play with your family then I would recommend this.
Washed up on shore!
This review will be spoiler free, which makes explaining the game a little tricky. The story is really what you are paying for here and I would love to share some of it with you, but that would ruin the surprise! What I can say is you start the game on a beach looking at a box full of surprises. The mechanics of how more cards are brought into play is very well done and always creates a bit of a thrill.
The game will take a little bit of organisation and set up before each game, but nothing to taxing. And once done, the rest of the game play flows smoothly and your group will have a seamless adventure.
Your choices at the start seem numerous and exciting. Looting through the washed-up flotsam on the beach feels quite thrilling! You never know what you are going to get! The sense of adventure really shone through for me and my family as we played out our first game. Exploring the island is crucial too. Your mission in the first scenario is to try and find shelter and light a fire and you currently have zero resources to do this.
Progressing through the game is fairly simple though, and the strategy is a little light. Really it is more about the order in which you choose to do things and then the speed at which you can achieve this. This again is perhaps why the reviews are so mixed follow by the next pretty big point. Every action is judged on a dice roll and this can make a game quite luck based.
Each player has different attributes for their knowledge skill and strength. Depending on their abilities determines the amount of dice you can roll for certain tests or challenges. You need to build a shelter for example, test your skill or strength in order to achieve this. Your character has a skill of four, you can roll four dice. As you will be playing with multiple characters, you need to pick and chose who does what and tailor each rounds of actions accordingly. People become specialist in certain things and this helps with the theme, bringing you into the story.
Utilising characters in the right way can increase your chances of success. Whenever you roll for an action and fail, you can get experience marker. The game explains that you learn from your mistakes. These can then be used for re-rolls in later turns. The dice can make or break a round but you have the ability to also make your own luck. Also, a lot of actions don’t have just a pass or fail mechanic. More, roll two green for food or two yellows for wood, for example. So yes, the dice to play a large part on this, and it is luck based, but you can do something about bad roles and increase your chances for better ones.
The Sun is setting!
All of this plays out very smoothly in a fun story. I was intrigued and wanted to find out what happened at the end throughout. The issue with scenario one and two is how quick the timer on the game ticks round. At the end of each day, once you have had two actions per player, you all head back to camp to rest. You need to pay one food for each player or get a tired token. Too many of these and it is game over, so gathering food is very important.
Each player then draws one hazard card to see what fate awaits them during the night. Without any spoilers, most are bad! But avoidable with a lucky roll. Once all the hazard cards are drawn, that scenario is over. The hazard cards are the games timer. At this point you have either made it to the next scenario or failed and will need to re-play this part of the game.
This is a major problem as the divergent paths aren’t such that you will want to the early replay rounds, although the later scenarios do expand a little. I gave ourselves more hazard cards and more time, which is very simple to do, to avoid this. None of my family realised I had done this, so this only affected the game for me, and I was fine with that as it meant we all had a better experience with the game. Yes, it is cheating, but I was fine with that and reading online about this game it seems most players do the same.
Same Old Scenario?
Playing a scenario again isn’t terrible. Don’t get me wrong. We chose to do this for scenario three and four as there was a certain ending, we were aiming for that we didn’t get. Not that we'd failed the scenario, we just wanted to try again as we had fun with it. We felt there was enough story left in the round to explore further and the multiple paths you can take to offer some later replayability. But in the first two levels you really do just want to crack on with the story and having to go again when you have seen it all can be frustrating. It feels like you are going through the motions just to move on, and with some bad dice rolls you could fail again.
So, this is the key. If you can manipulate the time pressures and you are ok with the dice rolling, you may well love this game like we did. But if these issues sound too big for you then I would suggest this game isn’t for you.
What’s in the mystery box?
As the game progresses, the cards on the table grow exponentially! If you plan to play all five scenarios in a row without packing up the game in-between you need a table that is big enough! At the start you would assume this could be played in a small space with the options presented. But it grows quickly so plan ahead!
In-between scenarios, if you need to pack up the game, there is a brilliant organisation system in the box where you can separate cards in the active scenario, ones that need to be archived and others that are for future games. This system makes finding the cards you need at later points very simple.
When you begin you are looking at about 5% of the game. There are packs of cards in the box left waiting for the right time to be opened. The sense of adventure that this brought to me and my family was huge! It was fun to see the size of what was left to come. I would love to go into detail as to how these new cards and mechanics made me feel and what I thought of them, but that would spoil the surprise for you. All I will say is this game offers enough of a story and excitement to make for five really good scenarios. Depending on how many scenarios you replay, this will be five to eight hours of gameplay. After that, you may well never play again. Is this good value?
The thing with games like this is they can get a bad wrap for being disposable. My argument is always this. For £20 pounds, a box could turn up at your house and give you 20 minutes of joy before you happily throw it away. I am talking about a pizza delivery, and no one moans about that. Whereas a game that costs a similar amount that gives at least five hours of fun, and won’t give you the same sense of guilt afterwards, is criticised as being short lived?!
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of playing this game with my family and would like to do so again one day. It will be lent to a few friends and then maybe tried again in a year or so. I was swept up in this story and would like to try it again and go for a different ending. The sense of adventure and entertainment stayed throughout!
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