Island Time Review: Starve Or Surrender In This Charming, Limited Survival Game
- Initially engaging gameplay loop
- Bright visuals and peppy voice acting
- Far too limited in scope
- Lacking leaderboards and progression
Island Time is not what you’d expect for the sophomore project from a young studio that impressed with its first VR app, Manifest 99. That story-driven experience suggested this was a team looking to break new ground in VR storytelling. And perhaps it still is; perhaps Island Time was little more than an amusing distraction for the studio, a light-hearted experiment initially meant to help blow off steam that’s quickly forgotten. That’s certainly what it feels like, at least.
In Island Time you’re shipwrecked on a tiny island (conveniently sized around the limits of PSVR’s tracking capabilities). Your task is simple: survive as long as possible. There’s no rescue boat coming, you simply need to keep yourself fed until your health meter inevitably runs out.
To do that, you’ll need to keep your wits about you. Combining seemingly incompatible items like rocks and sticks can create useful tools like spears used for fishing or knocking down coconuts. Timber and flint arrive in a limited stream of care packages that can start up fires used to cook meat. The longer you survive, the more items come your way, the more combinations you can make, the longer you survive and so on and so forth.
There’s a spiriting sense of DIY here; there’s no tutorial and the only hints you’ll be given come by way of your cartoonish crab companion, Carl, voiced by the ever-enthusiastic Greg Miller. You’re largely left to figure out what to do for yourself and the game is all the better for it; successful crafting comes with a rewarding sensation, as does figuring out what you’re actually meant to be doing with your freshly-made tools.
Once you’ve got the basics down you can have some fun as a survival pro, settling into an entertaining routine of rationing food, keeping an eye on cooking fish, stoking flames with flint and making sure seagulls don’t steal your grub. It’s an often amusing spinning plate contest that’s designed to really start pushing you around the 20-minute mark.
But, just like the patch of sand you’re surviving on, Island Time is a little too small. There just isn’t the level of ingenuity and invention you might have been hoping for here; most items are just combined with sticks, for example, and most of the threats you face are meager. Once you’ve learned to fish and collect coconuts you’ve learned the majority of the game and, while this is engaging enough at first, it’s not enough to keep you coming back after a few playthroughs. My best time clocked in at just under 19 minutes, during which I was essentially doing the exact same tasks from the off. Island Time fails to evolve, and that’s its biggest downfall.
Besides, there isn’t much point to repeated playthroughs aside from achievement hunting. This is that rare type of game I could actually see myself competing in leaderboards on, but there aren’t any to speak of, not to mention any sort of progression system that might make your next trip to the island a little bit different.
It’s a real shame, as the concept has such promise. With a few more items to combine and dangers to fend off, Island Time could have been a devilishly unpredictable game of survival but instead it plays its hand far too soon.
Final Score: 6/10 – Decent
From the bright visuals to the peppy voice acting, Island Time has plenty of charm as well as the foundations for a solid survival game. Sadly it’s far too limited in scope and can be mastered in less than an hour. With a few more fresh ideas Flight School could have had a hit on its hands, but as it stands the game’s fun is quickly-forgotten.
Island Time is available now on PSVR, Rift and Vive for $14.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.