Like roughly 95% of the population, I love me some survival games. But there are a lot of those out in the world now, so anything that changes up the formula a bit is more than welcome. Enter Tinker Island: Survival Adventure, with it’s mobile-centric simplicity and cutesy style.
The overall point of Tinker Island is to manage a small but growing group of shipwreck survivors as they attempt to survive on a seemingly deserted island – and eventually escape, of course. All of the little character details like social interactions and flavortext surrounding various survivors’ exploits are handled via a journal/log book, which actually does a pretty decent job of fleshing out the world and the characters in a semi-detached sort of way. It’s nothing super complex, but it’s nice to have a bit more of a reason to care.
Tinker Island is super easy to jump into. Each survivor has a handful of stats used for searching, gathering, crafting, and fighting. Just match up the appropriate skill with the appropriate action and you’ll be min/maxing your workload in no time. You can even assign multiple survivors to a single job in order to complete it faster, or spread them out over multiple projects to cover more ground – sometimes literally. As simplistic as it is, it’s also pretty satisfying to send five people off to do five things and feel like you’ve made the most of a situation.
That simplicity is as problematic as it is helpful, however. While, yes, survivors are doing things like adventuring out into the wilderness and finding new locations to pillage, or fighting sharks, or crafting Swiss Family Robinson style amenities, or fighting sharks, or gathering snake meat from a badger’s abandoned layer — or even fighting sharks — in practice, there’s almost nothing to it. You drag a survivor’s portrait/card thingy to a task and that’s it. Then it’s just “sit back and wait until the job timer hits zero.”
It can also take a long, long time for things to get done once you make it past the early sections. Exploring a location might take a few seconds, but requires a ton of attempts before you map it out completely; crafting a new thing could take several hours (and several attempts besides), and so on. It’s not that I expected a free mobile game to avoid the standard “do a thing and then come back later” pitfalls, but it is unfortunate when the stars misalign and all of the current important tasks happen to require hours of waiting.
The thing is, I honestly don’t mind any of that too terribly much. Yes, Tinker Island is almost entirely devoid of what most would consider proper gameplay. Yes, it starts to take a really long time to get anything done. But I keep finding myself compulsively checking back in on my survivors. I get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that I’ve assigned the right people to the right tasks, and that said tasks will get done just a bit faster because of it. I like the charming bits of story that will occasionally pop up, and how sometimes the responses given or choices made in those moments can have (admittedly simple) consequences. Tinker Island is an exceedingly simple game, but it’s also pretty dang charming.