When is about games you can safely introduce to anyone, you probably can’t get it wrong with Forbidden Island.
Simple mechanics, complex strategies, fiendishly difficult, gorgeous illustrations, lovely tin box… It has all it takes to get newbies into the hobby.
Thus when I heard that the iPad app had been released, I simply rushed into the App Store and had to buy it. At £2.99, it is terribly well priced and I wasn’t going to say no, quite frankly.
I must say it was with some apprehension. After my experience with Elder Sign, I was expecting my iPad 1 would crash as well. Did it? No.
For those of you who haven’t played Forbidden Island ever. In this game the players play together. You have to cooperate in order to rescue four treasures from an island that’s sinking little by little. Once you’ve secured the four treasures, you have to get to Fool’s Landing where a handy helicopter will take you away and into safety. If the players manage to do that, that means victory. However things are not as easy. The tiles that form the island can sink every round. If they sink twice, they disappear never to be seen again. To make things even more difficult, at some points a card with a terribly nasty effect will come up. That card will increase the number of tiles that sink every turn, will shuffle all the tiles that have already sunk once, and put them back on top of the pile, thus increasing the risk of parts of the island sinking permanently. The players will have to shore-up the parts of the island that have sunk once, move about to get to the treasures, trade cards, move players from one part of the island to another and use their unique abilities to win the game.
Have I mentioned is a very difficult game to win? Well, it is. And it’s amazing fun!
The game is a true translation from the board game experience to the iPad. Nothing has changed and they have kept everything as intact as you would wish for. The tiles have the same artwork, the board the same shape, and the players can play with the same characters that exist in the physical game. If you’ve played the boardgame before, everything will be completely familiar and you’ll be able to start pretty much right away.
If you haven’t played before, the tutorial will take you through the basics of the game in about 10 minutes. It is extremely easy to follow too, and it’ll feel like you’re playing from the moment go, so you won’t get bored. If you want a more thorough look at the rules, there is a digital book with all the rules for you to read at your leisure. I doubt you’ll need them to play, but it’s handy to have them just in case.
The interface is clean, without any distractions. I am really pleased that they’ve not gone through the route of attempting to be too clever with the arrangement or the characterization. For example they’ve left icons for each character rather than giving them faces and “personalities”. There are a few things they could have done to add interest to the game, like getting the tiles to actually flip when they sink, rather than just shake and go blue-ish, or have different textures for the completely sunk bits of the island. However these would just be nice addition and not something that’d add to the gaming experience, so can’t really criticize them for that.
The soundtrack is pretty much inexistent. There are some basic sounds when the cards shuffle and tiles sink and a few more here and there, but no music to take you through the game. I would have liked to hear something while playing. I know this is being picky, but the game is not short and sometimes it can feel a bit lonely. Again this is not something that detracts from the gameplay, but it’d be a nice touch.
So do I like it? You kidding me?… I love it!
After the initial couple of games when you have to get used to the interface and how to trade cards, you’ll be playing like a pro and the game speeds up considerably. The feeling of dread that comes when one of the cards that raise the level of the water is drawn from the deck is fantastic. The surge of adrenaline when you see you are getting near the end and your island is about to sink all around you… Well.. that’s perfect!
I hope for the next update, or even next version, there will be an online mode. I would LOVE to be able to play this with my friends over the Net. It is the only thing that I truly thing would improve this game.
A fantastic effort on this app that deserves 5 stars for a wonderful conversion to tablet of a wonderful game!