Sinking Island Review

By Marc Saltzman |

If you think it would be fun to be a billionaire, perhaps you ought to hear about poor old Walter Jones. In his case, it was murder.

In the Agatha Christie-esque adventure game Sinking Island, you play as Jack Norm, a police detective called to a remote tropical island to investigate the not-so-accidental death of Walter Jones, a wheelchair-bound billionaire found dead at the bottom of a cliff. Who did it and what was their motive? This is what you must find out by interrogating the ten suspects, snapping photos and collecting evidence.

While not one of the better adventure games available, this attractive point-and-click detective story might appeal to fans of murder mysteries.

Created by Benoit Sokal, who brought us the awesome Syberia adventure game, Sinking Island is an interactive whodunit that challenges players to piece together clues in order to find a motive and reveal Mr. Jones’ murderer. Naturally, everyone on the island is a suspect — whether it’s someone to benefit from a huge inheritance or an angry ex-business associate — and so you must use logic and deduction to narrow down the list of potential killers.

To help you along the way is a Personal Police Assistant (PPA), a pocket computer that helps you organize your information and cross-reference items to find a match. All key conversations are stored here for each of the suspects, along with photos you’ve taken, material clues (relevant items found on the island), documents (letters, lists, diaries, and so on). A "clue analyzer" feature can help you identify if there’s a positive match between items, such as matching photos of a suspect’s shoes and imprints on the sand near the murder scene.

Problem is, this PPA isn’t very intuitive and can take a while to get over the learning curve. Specifically, I wasn’t sure how to drag and drop elements (conversations, photos, items and documents) into the clue analyzer, so when I tried to leave a scene without cross-referencing items, the game wouldn’t let me. Once I figured it out with some trial and error, you’ll learn how to use the PPA to your advantage (including character’s psychological profiles).

Aside from the fact there’s no lip-synching (oddly, character’s mouths don’t move when they speak), Sinking Island‘s graphics are quite impressive. Similar to Benoit Sokal’s Syberia, this game enjoys outstanding art direction (the art deco-style island hotel is gorgeous) and character detail, and with impressive weather effects (a storm rocks the island for the three days you’re there). The symphonic soundtrack is also terrific, and adds to the game’s atmosphere.

While the story is intriguing, the dialogue is quite cheesy ("The sky is melancholy like us!") or simply awkward, such as Sonia telling Jack, "I’m the granddaughter of Mr. Jones." (Who talks like that?) But if you can get past these minor shortcomings, the game is a good – and good-looking –  adventure you can play in a relaxed or timed mode for an added challenge.

If you liked this game, try Syberia, Syberia 2 and Post Mortem.

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