Developer: Flight School Studio
Publisher: Flight School Studio
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Following on from their beautifully atmospheric virtual reality narrative tale Manifest 99, Flight School Studio have returned to VR platforms once again with their new title Island Time VR. It’s a completely different experience this time around though, with the player not watching a story unfold in front of them but instead taking on the role of a castaway on an island who has to survive for a long as possible. Don’t keep on top of your hunger or succumb to the many dangers around you and its game over.
It’s a really neat idea and one that can be a lot fun, but unfortunately Island Time VR doesn’t have enough variety to encourage you to make your stay on the island a long one.
It’s probably worth mentioning from the get-go that you’re going to need a fair bit of space around you when playing Island Time VR. The game warns you at the start, but I ignored it and sat back comfortably in my recliner – it only took a minute before I was smashing my Move controllers against the wall and everything around me. To get the most out of the game, get in some space and get comfortable.
Whilst it’s made clear that the goal of Island Time VR is simply to survive, you’re never really told how to do it. You’re thrown in the deep end a bit on this little island and whilst the tools to survive are always around you, actually utilising them in the correct way is another thing altogether.
Luckily, you’ve got a companion by your side: Carl the Crab, who is brilliantly voiced by Kinda Funny’s Greg Miller. Tom Hanks had Wilson, so hey, it’s only fair you have a friend too, right? Carl gives little instructions throughout that help guide you, but without making it too obvious what exactly you need to do. He’ll point out the objects around you too, be it the stones to make fire, the coconuts to drink from, or the fish to catch. He says everything with a lot of enthusiasm and is easily impressed, which actually adds to the fun – nothing quite like an excitable crab guiding you along, right?
Despite Carl’s subtle help, there’s a lot of discovering to be done on the player’s side. Some of it’s obvious, such as combining bamboo with a stone to make a spear or cracking coconuts to get their milk, but other times you’ll have to play around and see what you come up with. You can grab out at just about everything you can see though, and the island is pretty small so nothing is ever out of reach. It’s all pretty fun and Carl’s sometimes sarcastic remarks let you know if you’re doing a bad job, but be warned – experimenting too much can lead to death.
Whilst Island Time VR might look incredibly pleasant and vibrant from the outside, it also just so happens to be a punishing experience. One wrong move leads to death, be it through starvation, accidentally lighting yourself on fire, evil thieving seagulls stealing your stuff, or simply eating bad food and getting poisoned. The aim of the game is survival and unless you learn to face your adversity head on you’re going to have a bad time.
It adds a bit of a trial and error process to the game, with each playthrough seeing you learn something new and surviving that bit longer on your next run. The only problem is, the game doesn’t throw any real surprises your way – once you’ve learned how to gather food, maintain it, and keep yourself safe, it’s essentially a waiting game. Island Time VR has plenty of neat ideas on show, but they’re all seen after you’ve managed to survive for around ten minutes. Having to repeat them all time and time again each time you die can just grow tiresome. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have a lot of fun figuring everything out – just expect to get a little bored of it after an hour or so with the game.
It wouldn’t be such a problem if Island Time VR didn’t have such a high price point, with it coming in at £16.99 on the PlayStation store. This is a pretty hefty price, especially for a game that’s a little limited in scope and can grow tiresome after an hour of play. Whilst you can clearly see that the team at Flight School Studio have put a lot of love into the game, it’s simply too high a price when there are so many longer (and probably better) titles available for much less.