|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: White Birds Prod.||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microids / Encore Soft.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 25, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
The thought of owning or inhabiting a small tropical island has always seemed precarious business indeed, particularly given the violent and dangerous nature of turbulent hurricanes and tropical storms that thunder across your dooryard on an annual basis. It's a wonder why anyone would want to live on a sandy beach surrounded completely by perilous ocean as far as the eye can see, when nature has the power to wipe the entire island off the face of the planet like an insignificant spec of dirt. Of course, there are worse fates. Having your island - inhabitants and all - and your legacy swallowed up by the mighty depths of the ocean itself comes to mind.
A watery grave is one potential fate for the inhabitants and visitors perched on the shores of the atoll of Sagorah in the middle of the Indian Ocean face in White Birds Productions' ominously named Sinking Island. This murder mystery adventure takes a few strange, if not somewhat predictable, twists, since time is of the utmost importance - both for those being investigated and the man doing the investigating. Much like the game itself, they stand upon shaky ground that struggles against being consumed by the vast sea around it.
Towering high above the churning waves of the Indian Ocean, Walter Jones' massive abode and hotel stands like an obelisk amidst a vast expanse of nothingness. For the 500 lb., wheelchair-bound egocentric, this palatial getaway serves as a means of retreat from the outside world. Unfortunately for the wealthy recluse, it turns out to be his final resting spot. After inviting his heirs to the island under the pretense of discussing his will, Jones mysteriously falls to his death from the rocky shoreline cliffs, and it appears he perished under suspicious circumstances. Police investigator Jack Norm is flown in by helicopter to open an inquiry into Jones' demise, as a favor for a bed-ridden colleague, and finds out he's about to get more than he bargained for. Quite a few of the ten people residing at the remote location have good reason to wish ill upon the millionaire, and Norm's job is not an easy one. Making matters worse, a violent storm rolls in, blocking further passage to and from the island, and the entire thing is - yes - slowly sinking.
As Norm, you have three days to gather evidence, interrogate those remaining on the island, and piece together clues gleaned from hardcore detective work to track down the killer before the island sinks into the watery depths. Unfortunately, the whole process sounds a lot more exciting than it really is, but fans of slow-and-steady mystery games and sleuthing challenges will find there's some enjoyment to be wrung out from this adventure - with patience and perseverance. There's a whole lot of talk and very little rock to be found in the rain-drenched, sandy dunes and the cold, modern architecture of the island's main attraction. Interestingly, there are two ways to play Sinking Island. The main game offers a straightforward adventure experience that lets you proceed at your own pace. The alternative is a more time-sensitive, intense version where time ticks away and failing to get the detective work accomplished within a certain timeframe can trip you up and spell your demise. The latter is only preferable for hardcore adventure addicts seeking a superior challenge.
The gameplay hinges a little too heavily on running back and forth between a handful of the same, large, dismal environments (rendered intentionally so to suite the adventure's exceptionally dreary vibe) to ask the same ten folks many of the same questions over and over again. Almost every clue you'll pick up, through discussion and old fashioned elbow grease alike, will need to be presented to the odd assortment of personalities residing on the island and discussed ad nauseum. Norm's investigative manner ranges from cocky and completely awkward to occasionally interesting. Some of the questions are horrendously phrased the first time around; they certainly don't improve by the tenth.