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ADVENTURE GAMES: Discover the Story

THE VOLCANIC ISLAND

At first glance The Volcanic Island appears to be another one-shot cooperative 'solve the puzzle'/ 'escape the room' style of game. It is for 1-4 players who, as students, have to investigate mysterious and weird occurrences on, as you may have guessed, a volcanic island. Unlike other 'escape room' type experiences this plays out over four chapters, and instead of playing to a time limit, or the general expectation of just 60 minutes of visual and verbal distractions, you are looking at 75 minutes for chapters one, two and four and 150 minutes for chapter three - that's 375 minutes/6 hours 15 minutes of quite difficult detective work.

Each player is given a character card and a character standee, again quite different from other games in this genre, and to add yet another contrast to general escape room games the action takes place on maps built from Location tiles.

Each Location tile shows a scene of the area the players are in with objects, items or spaces numbered for reference. Each character/player can go to a different number to discover what it represents and then a discussion amongst all players can decide which of them requires the attention of more than one character. For example (not from the game, just a simile) if Ayana goes to a referenced space and discovers a screwdriver then there is no need for any or all the other players to turn up to help her, but if Sato discovers an area where a plane has crashed and there are pieces of plane and luggage etc strewn all over and around, then it is not viable as a single person search, and the notes of reference will make this obvious.

Because of the expected time it will take to solve all the necessary parts of this adventure you are not expected to finish it in one session. It is too long for one session, not just in time but because most players (that I know) do not have the ability to focus and concentrate for so long and still enjoy it.

The characters are students; Ayana who majors in Botany, Cataysa majors in History, Jerome in Mechanical Engineering and Sato the Forensics major. Each also is aligned to an element; Ayana - Water, Cataysa - Air, Jerome - Earth and Sato - Fire.

Some of the reference numbers on a Location tile lead to another area that is visual by card and not just mentally visual the way text inspires thought. This means that another card, and/or cards is/are laid adjacent to the start card, thus building up the playing area/board. As you progress the Location tiles can be removed to allow table space, though if the players deem it necessary to go back for some reason (unlikely but players have free will) they can be reattached.

As Location tiles are searched specific things are found, these are text and illustrations on playing card sized cards which players can keep until they are used and discarded. These cards are positioned on the table in four face down decks; one of numbers 10-99, one of a1-e3, then M1-M5, and finally T3 and T4.

These often give you paragraphs to look up in the Adventure Book - this being a story book containing necessary text passages starting with A to T (for some reason the O has a line through it which generally denotes that the O (oh) is actually a 0 (zero) ). These Lettered paragraphs are followed by numbered passages, from 101 to 95995, that's a lot of words, in fact the Adventure Book has enough text it could be a mini novel on its own - though you'd have fun trying to place the paragraphs in any understandable order. Obviously you're not allowed to read any passages unless so instructed.

 

The VOLCANIC ISLAND can be explored in solo mode, but in all honesty, despite the fact that the single-player game is very well created, it is really a game that requires as many brains and suggestions as possible, plus it's a lot more fun to discuss and solve puzzles with friends and family than it is to sit alone.

Because it is a long game, provision has been made to allow play to be paused. Basically you keep the cards found and not discarded in a zip-loc bag and then take a phone photo of the layout as it stands when you wish to stop. You can do this at any time, whether you have completed a chapter or are halfway through one. One thing that is a bit of a pain but is totally necessary is the taking of copious notes. There are so many places to visit, so many things to remember, that notes are the only way you and the other players will be able to cope with it all, especially after taking a break.

You may need to play this at least twice as there is more than one ending as well as possible pathways throughout that you miss the fun of by taking alternative routes. Not many games of this genre are fun to play twice because you generally remember what happens with each encounter and thus know what steps to take and what to avoid. As there are so many different paths to follow, playing it at least twice will not seem so much like you are playing the same exact game twice, though of course there will, especially near the beginning be scenes you can skip quickly through.

There is so much enjoyable game in such a small box and for such a minimal price. You should always check out your local game store first, otherwise it can be found online between £12.00 - £14.00, as I said, that's a small price to pay for such a large game.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015