The latest title from Gogii Games and Big Fish Games is Escape from Paradise, a “life simulation” set on a lush tropical island where a handful of castaways are trying to survive and find a way home.
Judging by the preview Gamezebo got its hands on, Escape from Paradise looks to do a lot of the same things Virtual Villagers does while bringing a few twists of its own into the mix – most notably, the addition of 17 Tropix-style mini-games to play. The adventure begins when the cruise ship SS Fantasy gets lost in a fog somewhere in the Pacific Ocean and ends up running aground on a beautiful tropical island. Starting with two castaways under your control, you’ll begin to build the foundations of a settlement under the guidance of one of the natives, a strange man in a Tiki mask.
Like Virtual Villagers, the actions in Escape from Paradise happen in real-time, and you can get the castaways to perform tasks by clicking and dragging them to the appropriate location. If you want a castaway to harvest wood, for example, simply drag her over to the nearest tree and she’ll begin chopping wood and carrying it over to the wood pile.
When you complete challenges for the Tiki man, he’ll give your villagers new tools and teach them new techniques, such as fishing and picking bananas for food, building huts to sleep in and wells for drawing water, and using a shovel to dig into the ground for buried treasures.
As your village becomes larger and more successful, additional castaways will be persuaded to join your tribe and increase the population. You can click on villagers to see what they’re thinking, and each villager has four basic criteria that must be met: hunger, thirst, sleep and social. If you fail to keep castaways happy, they’ll stop working and may even leave the tribe. Conversely, if villagers work hard at various jobs like lumber jack (chopping wood), provider (hunting and gathering food), and carpenter (building things), they’ll level up their skills and be more efficient at those particular tasks.
Earning new abilities and acquiring new equipment allows the villagers to explore more of their island surroundings. For example, advanced carpentry skills will allow them to build a bridge over the river to gain access to a new area.
Another characteristic that separates Escape from Paradise from your average sim game is that it’s not open-ended. There are a specific set of challenges that you must complete in order to “win” the game by escaping the island, such as gathering certain amounts of wood and food as offerings to the Tiki man, building a certain number of huts or buildings, and discovering all 10 pieces of a broken radio that, when re-assembled, can be used to signal for help. As you complete each challenge, you’ll advance on a gameboard-like overhead map that marks your progress towards the goal of reaching the center of the island.
Mini-game challenges will also pop up on the map from time to time in story mode, and you can also play them on their own from the main menu. In the mini-games, you compete against the natives in games of skill such as checkers, shuffle board and rock toss to unlock new items for your tribes and earn resources and skill points to distribute among your villagers. There are tribal-themed variations on a number of popular casual games, including a Sudoku clone called Tribuku, a match-three called Ship Wrecked, and the Diner Dash-inspired Furious Feast.
Providing a balance of real-time resource management with concrete goals to progress through might be just the formula Escape from Paradise needs to appeal to fans of both gameplay styles. With 50 castaways to collect, 17 mini-games to master, and more than 30 challenges to complete, it promises to be an entertaining journey.