Radiation Island is full of surprises. For the first time in awhile, I found myself playing a mobile game that actually evoked emotional responses from me. Even though it is a little rough around the edges, Radiation Island was able to awe me, rattle my nerves, and keep me hooked throughout. While so many first-person survival games fail to impress, Radiation Island is very much a game that fans of the genre should take note of.
As largely a single-player game (multiplayer consists of an arena mode that unlocks after beating the game), Radiation Island does lack the tenseness that accompanies multiplayer survival games, where other human beings are factored into the experience. Yet Atypical Games makes up for this loss by coating the game with a mystery story that gives the player a reason to explore the entire island, rather than make their sole goal survival. Filled with funky endgame weapons, parallel universes, a mysterious (seemingly) abandoned island, and crazed mutant zombies, Radation Island has all the trappings that you’d expect to find in a corny Syfy Channel original movie.
And that’s just awesome.
Exploration is not easy, though. Players won’t get very far into the island if they’re not properly prepared for the treacherous adventure that awaits them.
This is where the survival elements come into play: players will need to keep their hunger satisfied, tend to any injuries, and keep warm during the night and at higher altitudes. As one would expect, the player gets basic resources from whacking trees and stones to yield wood and rocks, which are used to make simple tools, which are then used to gather better resources to make more tools, and so on.
Combat in Radiation Island is better handled with ranged weaponry. Melee combat is clunky, and dangerous. A neat option is available that auto-locks onto a target for you to accommodate for aiming with touchscreen controls, which is usually unwieldy.
The survival mechanics are nothing new, and anyone who has played a survival game before will be able to jump right into the flow of things. That aspect of the game is very unremarkable. What is remarkable though, is how the game looks.
In my first moments on the island, I walked around and just looked. I remember looking back towards the beach, where I spawned in, and the sun was casting rays through the tree branches, a few butterflies were fluttering amongst the coastal grasses; leaves were falling from the trees courtesy of a light breeze. I was just amazed at the tiny graphical details that went into the game. With that said, pop-ins happen and frame rate drops were frequent on my iPad Mini 2. But even with those minor graphical issues, I was still impressed when I’d get to a new vista and look out across a new part of the island, or when the weather would change and fog would roll through. It was always very atmospheric, and that helped me really get into the game.
With full day and night cycles, you’ll spend your fair share of time navigating the island in the darkness of night. Though if you are not prepared for the night, you’re toast. The enemies in the wild will creep up on you and you won’t be able to see them coming. Players can illuminate the dark of night by building campfires and torches, but even so, the island is best explored during the daytime. I ended up building a bed and sleeping through the nights.
Radiation Island teaches you the basics that are unique to the game, but it also can teach you the basics of a survival game. As hard as it might be to believe, some people have never played Minecraft or DayZ, and this may be their first experience with the genre. If that’s the case, Radiation Island is ready to show them the ropes. A neat little checklist system is available for players to utilize. Simply pause the game, check out your adventure journal, take note of an objective, flip through to the information files and read up on how the systems work. It’s completely optional, so players who don’t need the extra lessons can leave it be.
My only real complaint with Radiation Island is that the A.I. isn’t that great. If you keep running, you can pretty much outrun anything — though one time I think a mountain lion killed me while I was fleeing, but it was pitch black and I was out of torches, so it’s possible I simply ran off of a cliff-side… or into another lion. Also, the enemy path-finding is just pretty pathetic to watch. Wolves would continue to run into a fence, to try to get at me on the other side, when a gap in the fence is just a few meters away. At one point a mountain lion charged at me, I dodged it by side-stepping it, and the A.I. lost me. I was standing right next to the lion and it wasn’t even reacting to me.
With some more work, Radiation Island could easily become one of the best first-person single-player survival games for mobile devices. With an engaging story, great visuals, and a user-friendly mindset, Radiation Island is certainly a game that those intrigued by the genre – veterans or not – should check out.