Isle of the Dead

Moby ID: 6379
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Description official description

Isle of the Dead is a mixture between a first-person shooter and a traditional point-and-click adventure game. While walking through a level in a FPS mode you can examine certain areas closer and the game switches to adventure mode. The shooter part is visually and technically similar to Wolfenstein 3D. The player controls an apparently sole survivor of a crash, stranded on a tropical island in the South Pacific. The hero must hunt for survival items, weapons and a way to get off the island. Hideous zombies, vicious wolves and other horrors await him.

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Screenshots

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Credits (DOS version)

22 People (16 developers, 6 thanks) · View all

Concept and Design
3-D Map Design
3-D Programming
Render Engine
Art
Sound Package
Midi Sound Package
Music
Box Cover Art
Animation
Vocals
Additional Art
Production Services
Manuals
Typesetting
  • Rappin' Dazza J
Thanks to
[ full credits ]

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 26% (based on 2 ratings)

Players

Average score: 1.9 out of 5 (based on 15 ratings with 1 reviews)

An innovative, cute little game with somewhat ugly representation.

The Good
Plot / Setting
The introduction of the setting is pretty obvious and much used in many of the Cannibal and Zombie movies from the 70's: You're a passenger on a plane flying over the amazon, when suddenly the plane does a crash-land on to a distant island. Seemingly, you're a sole survivor and must find a way out of the island. After you get more into the story by talking with the natives, you will learn more darker facts about the story. Which I actually find more satisfying than the usual plots used in movies of this genre.

The game supposedly has multiple endings, but I have yet to figure them out.

Gameplay
A brilliant combination of both first person shooter and point and click -adventure game elements. I think this must be the first game to do this, and it does it relatively well considering that.

Even though the point and click elements of the game are scarce, they are done pretty well to certain extent. There are acceptable amount of actions you can do, considering this is mainly a first person shooter: Look, Get, Talk and Use.

The first person -part of the game is done more better than well, comparing the movement to say, Wolfenstein 3D's slow turning, Isle of the Dead responds to player's controls with minimal response time. This makes the FPS part of the game very enjoyable. Especially when using a mouse to move and look around, the game beats some of the newer ray casting engines like Duke Nukem 3D's BUILD, which didn't have properly responsive mouse-aiming until now. This is why I tend to find myself playing this game often, it's easy to get to a comfortable position and use only the mouse to play the game.

Audio
One of the songs in the game is actually pretty satisfying and enjoyable with the relaxed guitar and beautiful piano composition. Too bad the sound effects don't do that well.

Visuals
The graphics overall, are minimalistic, but they manage to do their job. The ray casting engine doesn't have any field-of-vision depth problems that most of the ray casting engines did have back then - you see everything that you're supposed to see.

The cutscenes are pretty nicely drawn and animated.

Innovations
The greatest innovation is the already mentioned combination of both FPS and adventure game elements. There are some smaller, but nicely expressed innovations. Instead of not allowing the player to see the edges of the island, you can actually walk on the beaches. This is done by making an animated wall with a view of the ocean, which then connects to the sky "seamlessly". In reality, it is a normal, vertical wall, which happens to look like an actual ocean. I think they pulled it off very nicely. Also, the sun seen on the sky moves when time goes on in the game, which I think, is a really neat feature considering the age of the game. Not even the most recent games have this in them.

The Bad
Gameplay
The downside of the point and click system is it being non-responsive at times. To interact with the items and objects on screen, you have to visit the inventory screen first, and select items and actions you wish to use. This makes the system a bit more sluggish than in most of the adventure games out there. The system doesn't always respond to your actions in the inventory screen and you will need to do the actions again. Outside the inventory screen, the system works fine.

The map is ugly and only has three colors. You can see all the dead bodies, but you can't see the locations of items NOR the exits to other areas, which is rather frustrating since especially the forest exits are hard to notice when running away from enemies in a hurry. You can also zoom in and out, but there's little to none function to this.

Sometimes the enemies tend to appear inside the walls when you enter a new area and can't be shot, but neither do the damage to the player, which makes the problem minor.

I think that, the most absurd problems within the gameplay, is that enemies resurrect every time you enter an area. This makes the game frustratingly hard if you don't have a long-ranged weapon like the Pistol or the Shotgun. Either way, it's a fast way to lose all of your ammunition or life. Surely the player character knows to shoot them in the head, right?

The game also has a set time limit, which you get no clue about in the game. It makes the game even more frustrating.

Audio
This is where the game goes wrong the most. The sound effects are gutless and depthless clicks and bangs. The enemy sound effects basically sound like someone wanted to intentionally make the game sound cheesy. Sure, the overall style of the game is made somewhat playful and loose-minded, but the sounds could've been done with more professional touch and still keep the playfulness in them.

Only one out of the three midi songs in the game manages to please with it's care-free guitar plucking and nice piano interlude, but I never actually heard the song in the game. The other two songs are pointless. The other one is basically a single, repetitive bassline, and the other one (which plays all through the wilderness FPS sections) is a show-off of an amateurish composition. It's full of weird discord guitar melodies and some lonely strings on top of them. There are absolutely no drums whatsoever on any of the tracks.

The music also has a tendency to suddenly stop from playing. It can be fixed by entering another area, but it sometimes disappears completely and can be heard only by restarting the game.

Visuals
It's hard to say whether I like or dislike the graphics, I personally find even the enemy sprites and animations rather cute, than ugly, as most people have said about them. I doubt the game would've worked with darker graphics and atmosphere in general, but they really should have tried a more professional look, even if intentionally cheesy, for the enemies. I've always been a fan of older games that use a ray casting engine. The style they have chosen for the game would work, but not with the way they pulled it of in this game.

The Bottom Line
If you're a fan of either Cannibal or Zombie movies from the 70's, don't get turned away by the sight of comically expressed characters, sometimes frustrating gameplay and the outdated graphics, you might want to try the game out. If not, you could still try the game out for some mindless shooting, to test out your survival skills or just to see the few innovations the game has.

I doubt that you can enjoy the game if you're not a friend of the genre, or can't look through some of the problems in older games like this.

In any case, I personally find the game enjoyable and satisfying because of it's carefreeness and innovations. I would give the game a four, but the problems can't be looked past unless you really want so.

It's a nice, little and simple shooter, with some innovative ideas and with almost equal amount of problems.

DOS · by Dae (7217) · 2012

Trivia

Extras

The full box releases of Isle of the Dead came with a 12 page Black & White comic book that told the story of how our hero crash landed on the zombie infested island (and tipped the player off on where to find a shotgun in the plane wreckage).

Awards

  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) – #32 Worst Game of All Time

Analytics

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  • MobyGames ID: 6379
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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by CheshireCat.

Additional contributors: ClydeFrog, Patrick Bregger.

Game added May 14, 2002. Last modified January 19, 2024.