Developer: Kheops Studio
Release Date: August 21, 2007
One summer, when I was a child, my mother was a little concerned about the amount of time I spent playing video games. Her solution was a trip to the library to expand my mind, and the result was "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson, which quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. I read the story of Jim Hawkins with the wide eyes of a young child who loves adventure, and 15 years later, Kheops Studio has given me a chance to return to the Caribbean to revisit young Hawkins and the loveable villain, Long John Silver.
Destination: Treasure Island begins four years after the book "Treasure Island" ends. Jim, now a young man, has taken his share of the treasure and purchased a ship to begin trading among the islands. Long John Silver has disappeared, presumably to settle down with his wife, far from the eyes of the authorities. One night, while Hawkins is in his cabin, he hears a knock at the window, and he finds Captain Flint, Silver's old parrot, with what appears to be the final will and testament of Long John Silver. He has left all of his treasure to Hawkins, his only friend, and all Jim needs to do is go to the Emerald Isle and collect the booty.
One of the first things you'll notice about Destination: Treasure Island are the absolutely gorgeous environments. From the second you step foot on the island, you are presented with jungles that are lush and colorful and Mayan ruins that are dull and crumbling. As you traverse through the game, you'll see rundown buildings, beaches and waterfalls.
Most of the cut scenes are told using hand-drawn pictures that look like they were pulled directly from a storybook. They do a great job of conveying the story, and they give it a really classic feel, which certainly works in the game's favor. Overall, Destination: Treasure Island is a title that just looks great.
You'll find that the game also sounds great. The voice acting is extremely solid and doesn't have the stiff and unnatural feel that plagues many adventure games. The music doesn't come into play too often, but when it does, moments of peril feel perilous and moments of mystery feel mysterious. It's just perfect.
Enough with the superficial — let's talk about the things that make an adventure game fun: the puzzles. Most of the puzzles in Destination: Treasure Island take the sensible route. Rather than trying to solve some obscure ancient mystery by shifting around blocks, Hawkins spends most of his adventure trying to figure out how to use what he has in order to progress past obstacles. Almost all of the puzzles make sense, and you don't spend much time questioning why you're doing something. Now, I say almost, because there are a few puzzles which are kind of out of left field. They are, by far, the weakest of the puzzles, but they're still pretty fun. Fortunately, they are few and far between.
The best puzzles are the enigmas, which are long riddles left for you by Long John Silver that contain clues on how to find his treasure. These are written in long verse form and give you everything you need to know to solve the puzzles. As you make your way through the enigmas, you cross off portions of the verse so you can track your progress. The enigmas are great and lead to plenty of forehead-slapping moments because the solutions sometimes turn out to be so obvious that it's a wonder you were befuddled in the first place.
While most of the puzzles are incredibly fun, there are some minor problems, especially with the difficulty level, or lack thereof. Almost all of the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out, and although you'll occasionally come across something that will tax the brain, most of the puzzles are pretty simple.
Another problem with the puzzles is the combination system. Periodically, you'll be required to combine and break down objects to make new objects. As with all of the puzzles in the game, it makes sense most of the time, and it's completely clear why you're doing it. There are instances, though, when you'll spend time trying to combine everything in your inventory and hoping to figure out what the next move is by pure chance. Fortunately, the enigmas will at least provide you with plenty of clues so you'll know how to proceed.
Occasionally, you'll be required to muster up some nautical knowledge and tie some knots in mini-games. You have to successfully pick the correct steps to achieve the right knot. While it's a nice diversion, it almost feels unnecessary because there's really no consequence for failure. You just go back to the beginning of the knot and redo it, and since most of the knots don't take more than five steps, it's really not that tough to get it right on the first try.
Aside from the great presentation and puzzles, the shining point of Destination: Treasure Island is the story. As a sequel to one of my favorite books, you can rest assured when I tell you that the story for this game is worthy of the name "Treasure Island."
As Hawkins makes his way toward the treasure, the story of Long John Silver is portrayed through clues left on the island. A footprint here and an object there paint the picture of an old man living out his final days in seclusion. As Jim solves more and more puzzles, an incredible backstory emerges that bridges the four-year gap between the two stories. Along the way, Jim also has to deal with Yellowdog, Morgan and Dick, the three pirates marooned on the island at the end of the book. After years of being alone, the pirates were rescued by a passing ship and brought back to civilization, determined to get revenge on those who abandoned them to die.
The story progresses at a great pace with plenty of twists and turns to keep you invested, and the game remains true to the original book with its portrayal of characters and events. All in all, I'd easily consider this game a worthy successor to the classic.
If there's one major complaint to be made about this title, it's that it's really, really short. You can knock out the whole game in about five hours and after that, there's really nothing more to do. There are some alternate paths to take, but nothing that changes the outcome or the events of the story. If you choose to go through it a second time, any trouble you had with the puzzles the first time around won't be there, and you'll breeze through the game in about an hour and a half.
A good adventure game is tough to find, so when one comes along, you have to jump at the chance to play it. Destination: Treasure Island is one of those games. Boasting an incredible story, great presentation and fun, sensible puzzles, this is one game that fans of the genre and fans of the classic story have to play.
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