Survival games have become something of a fad lately. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Generally speaking they make for some interesting, almost infinitely-replayable games. If they’re done well, anyway. The short version is that The Survivor: Lost in Island (sigh…) straddles this line between being great and being a mess.

Presentation is the most immediately noticeable area where The Survivor contradicts itself. The game uses some very nice illustrations (in a cool, classic novel style, no less) to depict the various areas you can explore and the various fauna that you can interact with. Nothing is animated, but it looks really good regardless. Then there’s the text, which, to put it bluntly, is poorly translated. The script is on par with something you’d see coming out of Google Translate. It’s understandable on a basic level, but my goodness does it ruin the mood.

In the gameplay, conflicting elements collide again. Despite looking like a gamebook, The Survivor has a surprising amount of depth to it. You can collect different kinds of resources from different locations, craft survival equipment, build helpful things like a cooking fire or sleeping bag, create defenses to prevent wild animals from stealing all your stuff, and manage your health/mental state/hunger. Then there’s the matter of trying to escape the island/get rescued, which is also no easy task. All of these elements work together to create a game that I was honestly shocked to find so difficult to put down. Kind of. I’m not a big fan of how more complicated tasks (chopping wood, gathering reeds, etc) take a few seconds to complete due to a weird system of play-by-play descriptions, while simpler ones (collecting stones, finding fruit, etc) finish immediately and without the fanfare.

While it’s full of survival game staples like crafting and not dying, The Survivor has a bit of a problem with conveying important information. Basic stuff like building a crafting station, learning to build tools, travel, and resource gathering are all covered well enough. It’s the more nuanced things that need more explanation. For example, in order to construct a station that allows you to craft medical supplies, you need various materials — including iron ore. Well, okay, you can get iron ore from the mountains. Oh, but wait, you need a pickaxe to dig for iron ore. No problem, just craft a pickaxe, right? Nope. Crafting a pickaxe requires an upgraded crafting station, which also requires iron ore. Iron ore that you can’t dig for because you don’t have a pickaxe because you need iron ore to upgrade your crafting station to build a pickaxe to dig for iron ore.

And now my head hurts.
This isn’t a no-win situation, thankfully. You can actually trade with a bear (yes, you trade with a bear) in the mountains to get the ore you need. However, unlike the somewhat meticulous help the tutorial provides for all the basic tasks, you aren’t given any help with this one even though it’s absolutely essential to your survival and progression. Suffice it to say, make sure to read the task descriptions at each location carefully. Something that, for all intents and purposes, looks like a hunting/combat encounter could end up being a valuable NPC.

I do like The Survivor: Lost in Island (even though that title just echoes my language concerns), but it does require a fair bit of patience. If you can look past the poor translations and forgive the occasional omission of vital information, you’re bound to have a great time. Just don’t expect to finish it on your first attempt.