Radiation Island iOS – Not a paradise vacation, but a hell of a ride anyway.
This game puts the player in the shoes of a shipwrecked survivor previously caught up in an experiment gone wrong. Viewed from a primarily first-person perspective, the player experiences conflicts with natural and un-natural wildlife all while gaining clues to the bigger mystery surrounding the experiment. Survivors will need to scavenge supplies, find shelter, and eventually fight back in order to journey to the center of the island’s testing site.
During my first journey into the game, I found myself on some kind of American-looking ship. Was my character a military man? After a quick glimpse of some crazy effects that may have involved teleportation, I found myself along a beach shore clothed only in rags. While I rifled through a nearby hut for supplies, I found a journal and quickly learned that Radiation Island is named for its resemblance to the Radioactive Hazard symbol. In game terms, that meant three islands to explore and an ominous center zone that appeared to be the final step of my journey. As the game progressed, I began to see that Radiation Island borrows the storytelling component of a “journal hunt”, similar to the Bioshock series of games.
I liked the multi-tabbed notebook that was available from the start of the game. It serves as Radiation Island’s tutorial, quest tracker, recipe guide, journal collection, map, and settings control panel. This notebook allows a player to pick up right where they left off from the previous session. This notebook also allows players to use iCloud to save and load their save file between multiple devices
In keeping with the heavy survival angle, the game offers a fairly deep crafting system. Initially, players may rely on the abandoned huts for shelter, but the huts are not always accessible during longer treks to a necessary waypoint. Crafting recipes start out very simple with a combination of “Wood plus Fish equals Cooked Meat from the Furnace”, but larger recipes and greater resources are required for building the foundation, frame, and walls of a custom domicile. I was very proud of the first wooden shack I created, but I have even bigger plans for my next one. During the crafting process, inventory management is key and the developers have provided a decent touchscreen interface to deal with the many types of items that the player will store and consume during a given playthrough.
Radiation Island looks great. Atypical Games is the same developer behind the Sky Gambler and Battle Supremacy series and each of the games in these series offer top-notch graphics. (Sky Gamblers: Air Supremacy was even featured during Apple’s 2012 iPad Keynote) Radiation Island continues the tradition by presenting the player with rolling hills and steep valleys littered with flora and fauna. Many creatures are animated smoothly and move at a believable pace across the island. The majority of game textures are represented well, though the game is prettiest when viewing the landscape at a distance in order to see the lighting, shadows, lens flare, and reflective water. The day and night cycle present in the game works as another great lighting example.
These graphics come at a cost, however. The sharpest graphics will be visible for devices that use an A7 processor or higher, which encompasses many devices released around the time period of the iPhone 5S, but the game’s framerate will not be completely smooth even on a newer device such as my iPhone 6 Plus. The fire and smoke effects in the game seem to be pretty taxing on the in-game graphics engine, but the rest of the game runs at a pretty good speed.
Also, keep some sort of spare power handy. Pack an AC adapter, portable Battery, or even a battery case because this game will push a device pretty hard. My poor iPhone was begging for a charge within 3-4 hours of extended play and the phone heated up to a not-quite dangerous level. Consider this a warning to all readers that attempt to play during a long trip without proper preparations.
The sound effects for Radiation Island are not a strong point. There were quite a few of the usual growls, bangs, and booms that are serviceable enough, but during my time with the game something would happen that would cause me to quirk up an eyebrow. Some sound effects seem unbalanced or in need of a replacement effect. For example, the revolver weapon sounds okay, but when I fired a slingshot pebble into the ground or a body of water, I swore the game’s audio response was as if I threw a boulder. This issue is a little annoying, but did not prevent me from playing the game in any way.
Some audio issues go beyond the odd sound effect choice, though. In separate occasions, I would lock my phone or even just drop to the home screen in order to answer a text message, only to find that the game would stop playing half of the sound effects. In-game music might play, for example, but animal noise or weapon effects would become silent. Closing the app completely and reopening it resolved the issue, but I would have rather not had the issue to begin with.
The music in Radiation Island is used very well to create constant senses of curiosity and fear. The default environmental theme is a love-it/hate-it ambient track that seems to bob up and down between malicious and mysterious. Some sections of this track sound like they are being played inverted or reversed and this does a great job at creating a bit more unease in the first time player. Combat music seemed to cycle around several other tracks that clearly warn the player to expect trouble. I had originally thought that the music might be changing based on the type of opponent, but sadly this did not seem to be the case. As I continued to explore and survived more encounters, I heard each track quite a bit and I must admit that the music did start to feel a little repetitive.
Controls are not as bad as one might expect from a touchscreen first-person game. Each thumb essentially is mapped to a floating analog controller for looking and/or moving around. Each thumb can reach the UI elements with ease and accidental button presses are few. Almost all control elements can be moved anywhere on the screen, but not resized. In-game text is readable on tablet and phone, but playing the game on a phone (even a larger screened phone like my iPhone 6 Plus) makes it very hard to read the ammunition counter listed on the quick slot bar. According to the developer, MFi controllers are supported, but since touchscreen inventory management plays such an integral role, I chose to work with touchscreen only. An intelligent series of lock-on and awareness icons are present in game to aid with any ranged combat and help cut down on any control frustrations.
At this point, I love to mention a satisfying ending and/or final boss, but I haven’t completed this game, yet! There is a LOT to do and each excursion or waypoint seems to take me to something new. After exploring a few of the heavily radiated areas, I seem to have found a way to the endgame area, but it will take me a little longer to expose the truth.
Atypical Games has knocked one out of the park with Radiation Island. The flexible game save system and universal device support allow a player to continue exploring on almost any modern Apple device and at any time. The beautiful visuals pull the player deeper into the environment and will no doubt cause several “wow” moments. The game can suffer from some shaky animation at times and some sound issues seem to crop up at the worst times, but most players will be too engrossed to give much complaint.
As of this writing, the game is listed on the App Store for only $2.99. I have really enjoyed playing this game so far and I believe the game would be a steal at $4.99. I can easily list this as a strong recommendation to any iOS gamer looking for a fresh experience. As always, feel free to let me know what you think of the game in the comments below!
DOWNLOAD – Radiation Island – $2.99 – iOS