Isle of the Dead. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Merit Olafson
Comedy was one of the subtler rewards of Wolfenstein 3-D, but it seems to have rubbed off on the game designers at Rainmaker Software. They've imbued their Wolfenstein variation, Isle of the Dead (distributed by Merit Software), with a wonderfully sick sense of humor--it's a sort of hack-'n'-laugh game. Alas, like many comedians, they ultimately find it hard to keep up the pace.
You're the lone survivor of a crash landing and find yourself stranded on a free-scrolling beach supplied with whatever you can grab from the plane wreckage. Once you move inland--a matter of using a machete on the right parts of the scenery--you discover that you're the hottest thing on the island (literally) and that everybody wants a piece of you (again, literally).
It's an unfriendly group occupying the island. The blank-eyed kid asking "Daddy?" in an squeaky voice? He's a zombie. The Muscle Beach expatriate in Ray-Bans bawling "Bummer, dude!" as he goes down? He's a zombie. The headless torso carrying its head as a weapon, and the fat guy with his guts hanging out like wind chimes? Um, you get the idea.
Of course, the zombies eventually get their pound of flesh, and we cut (gulp) to an animation in which you're ripped to shreds with the sort of unbridled, juicy enthusiasm that's usually reserved for unwrapping presents on Christmas morning. And that's what works best (and what your parents will like least) in this game: the over-the-top, grisly fun of putting these shambling comicbook horrors to the sword with a maximum dispersal radius for bodily fluids. The graphics aren't fantastic, and I've heard better intro music out of 8-bit computers. But this game is trying to evoke the mood of the old EC Comics horror magazines, and comic books don't require state-of-the-art specs to be fun.
The developers have tried to go Wolfenstein one better by tossing in graphicadventure elements. You have the ability talk to other characters, there's an inventory screen that fills up with objects to use, and there are segments in which the free-scrolling action-oriented environment gives way to square-by-square adventure-style movement. These are nice touches, but they're not integrated quite as well as they might have been. You hack your way through long stretches of jungle and cavern overpopulated with enemies who have little variety, and the game has a tendency to descend into a bloodbath in which its previously light touch (much like our hapless adventurer) is simply overwhelmed by dead flesh. And by then, I'd already stopped laughing.
Merit Software (214) 385-2353 $69.95
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