Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate
First posted on 26 October 2009. Last updated on 26 October 2009.
Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate is the sequel to the original Return to Mysterious Island released by French developer Kheops Studio. The sequel continues the story from where the original game ends. Both games are based on Jules Verne's novel, The Mysterious Island. The game is also part of the Jules Verne Collection (also known as Jules Verne Collector's Edition, previously released by The Adventure Company) that includes Return to Mysterious Island and Journey to the Moon.
The opening summary in the sequel reveals what has happened in the original game: Mina is shipwrecked on an unknown island, and the island is the same island once inhabited by Captain Nemo (from Verne's novel). The island is now deserted, and Mina is the only human present. As she explores around awaiting for a rescue, she befriends a charismatic monkey named Jep who becomes her companion. She also discovers that a manmade shield around the island is the reason why the island has previously been left undiscovered. She manages to shut down the shield and calls for help. The original game ends as Mina is being rescued by a helicopter.
Alas, the rescue turns out to be ill-fated. Right after the helicopter takes off, it is shot down and crashes into the ocean. The pilot is dead, and Mina is once again the sole human survivor. With Jep's help, Mina needs to find out what has caused the crash and how to call for help once more. What is worse is that the island seems to be self-destructing and can blow up before more help arrives. The only recourse is for Mina to figure out the reason for the impending destruction and prevent it from destroying the island.
Not having read Verne's novel, I must confess that I have little knowledge of the back story on which this series is based. Fortunately, there are enough references to allow me to piece together much of the previous stories within this game. Fans of Verne, however, will undoubtedly discover a lot of literal references which I have missed.
The playable part of the game starts with Jep (a character which is not playable in the original game) rescuing Mina from the undersea wreck. For the first few tasks, the player takes control of the monkey as an introduction to the rather complex mechanics which this game uses. Later on, the player also takes control of Mina. In most of the scenes, however, both Mina and Jep are together. Sometimes, Jep forges alone to climb trees, fit through small passages, and even communicate with other monkeys. Jep cannot combine objects or use advanced tools, which only Mina can do.
In each scene, the player can look around in all directions, including up and down. The mouse cursor is fixed in the center of the screen. To interact with an object (to pick it up, for example), the player must pan around until the object is centered on the cursor. No keyboard control is required at all. The cursor is context sensitive and changes to indicate what actions can be performed. Left clicking selects the action. Right clicking opens up the inventory, from where system options (including the menu) can also be accessed.
When moving, the scenes simply jump from locations to locations. There are no interconnecting animations. While the panoramic view gives a false sensation of depth and 3D, the scenes are all actually pre-rendered in 2D that are then partially animated (with smoke, animals, and plants in the background, for example). For some cut scenes, stylized cartoon drawings are used to tell the story.
As Mina is the only living human, most of the voiceovers in the game are her own monologues. A few other human voices can be heard from old recordings, but their dialogs are minimal. The game is rich with ambient sound effects. The game also has a great soundtrack that creates an atmosphere befitting the mysteries of the island.
The game features some role-playing elements, such as a health bar for both Mina and Jep. When the health is low, the player must find food and eat to restore health. Sometimes, it is enough to just get a hug to raise the health a bit. Although the game constantly creates an atmosphere of danger, most locations are actually quite safe to explore. There are a few places where the player can die. However, the game simply rewinds itself to restart just before the player's last fatal action. Thus, there is no need to worry about saving the game before taking a potentially dangerous path.
The role-playing elements in this game extend beyond that of a health bar. For example, objects may be given away by the player or even stolen randomly from the player (a mechanic common in role-playing games). Certain actions taken by the player can make the local monkeys angry. These can have great consequences later on, leaving the player possibly stuck in a deadlock situation. Alternative solutions likely exist (a lot of which I probably have not found), though they can be quite a bit harder.
Some gamers may be intimidated by the huge inventory in this game which also exists in the previous game. The inventory has 7 tabs, and each tab has 7 x 4 slots. This makes for enough slots to store a total of 196 objects! The player is advised to sort the objects into the different tabs to simplify their management. For example, it may be smart to store all foods in a particular tab, all containers in another tab, all tools in yet another tab, and so on. In addition, the player is credited with points for inventions by combining several existing objects to form new objects. These include more advanced food, alcohol, and even perfume. Not uncommonly, there are different ways to make the same object (such as a fire). While it is not necessary to discover all combinations, the number of possible combinations can seem overwhelming.
The game incorporates a number of different mini games. They vary from logic teasers to dexterity games to even simple trial-and-error puzzles. Most of the mini games have an easy mode which can be triggered if the player has difficulty completing them otherwise. A really new and innovative feature in this game is that some of these mini games can be exported to an Apple iPhone (on which a mobile version of the game is also available) and played on the device. When the device syncs up, any additional progress made is updated in the game proper. There is also an optional online chat module, but it is unconnected to the game itself. It is really exciting to see the game developer trying out new ways to engage the player by cleverly extending the game across different platforms.
The scoring system used in this game is unusual. For each task which the player successfully accomplishes, or groups of objects (optional or mandatory) which the player correctly combines, the player is awarded with a few points. Similarly, for each mini game which the player chooses to finish on the easy mode, the player is penalized by a few points. This way, the game offers quite a bit of replay value by challenging the player to finish the game again with a higher score.
The game can be best summed up as a strange hybrid of an adventure game and a role-playing game. Some gamers will undoubtedly lose interest of the game because of its odd mechanics, while other gamers will praise the game for its added complexity and innovative gameplay. There are no fighting or endurance trials that will lower the character's health, though there are a few barriers in which the player must restore to maximum health before being allowed to proceed.
Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate is a well made game, even though it may be too complex for novice adventure gamers. Since this game is a sequel, which in turn is based on a novel, I recommend some acquaintance with the back story, either by playing the original game or by reading the novel, before proceeding to this game. Even with its few flaws, Return to Mysterious Island 2: Mina's Fate is a decent experience and a great example of good storytelling in a rich atmosphere.