Having already created powerful, story-driven virtual reality (VR) experience Manifest 99, Flight School Studio has gone in rather the opposite direction for its next title Island Time. Doing away with the dark sombre aesthetic of the first, Island Time embraces the comedic gameplay of experiences like Job Simulator – The 2050 Archives, putting you on a (very small) desert island with one goal, survival. And as becomes quickly obvious, death is smiling over you.
You will die a lot. This can’t be stressed enough. Not in some impossible rinse, die, repeat, gameplay design like that found in Dark Souls or classic 80s arcade shooters. More ‘oh look my hands are on fire’ and dipping them into the sea can’t save you, as a sarcastic crab mocks you once again for failing at the most basic of tasks.
Island Time is about dogged determination. As mentioned the island is tiny, so it’s possible to enjoy the gameplay seated or standing for a more roomscale experience. You’re given little to no idea how to survive apart from the ever present Carl the Crab, who will dole out advice, but it’s not always useful.
From the single island location you have access to some basic items like wood, bamboo, coal/rocks and a radio. Working things out like making a fire is fairly easy, place a wooden log and knock two of the rocks together to make a spark and ignite the wood. That’s great but what can you use the fire for? Well cooking mostly, fish or seagulls are quite good. Here is where it gets tricky, how to catch said fish, or what do you do when a seagull dive bombs you. These are all puzzles to work out and more, yet time isn’t on your side. A handy wrist watch shows your health which continually deteriorates and keeping yourself fed is the number one priority, or else it’s game over.
As time progresses you’ll be awarded new things to play with, Carl will offer you his claw, or the regular floating crate will provide a range of items such as a handy skull with a monocle alongside wood and more rocks to keep that fire going.
This is great at first, some light-hearted comedy mixed in with some puzzle/interactive gameplay. Yet as you die from the various things that can kill you, the only thing to keep coming back for is to improve that time. Sure there might be a few other things to find, but the main gameplay arc is finding ways to keep yourself continually fed, and it soon becomes clear those options are fairly limited with the same processes having to be continually repeated.
The initial premise of Island Time makes for fun quirky experience to begin with. Utilising repetitive gameplay however cuts a fine line between addictive ‘must try harder’ and boring tedium, a line that Island Time really does sit on. It is hard not to like Island Time yet after five or six longer sessions that sheen starts to wear off as the variety does.