Jud’s Game Rating:

Graphics **** Player participation (PP) **** Satisfaction Factor (SF) ***

Frustration Factor (FF) ****   Fair Play (FP) **  Tedium Factor (TF) ***

A billionaire has been murdered on a tropical island, and it`s up to Detective Jack Norm to crack the case! Walter Jones had planned on opening up a resort for the rich and famous, but was killed before his dream could be achieved. Interview the ten people on Sinking Island to get valuable clues. This Adventure game will require you to use all your wits to solve the mystery and find the murderer! (BigFish sales blurb)

I don’t know how many blogs have been written about this game, but the Forums are full of it – almost all are detrimental to most of its aspects.  I tend to agree with them – yet there is an undercurrent of disappointment for a game spoiled by game-play constrictions, and glitches.

Of course one of the prime complaints (mine, and in Forums) is that you cannot trial this game to avoid a frustrating purchase – it is a Large File game which you have to buy to download.  Okay so that is what you would do if you bought it in a shop.  You’d read the info on the box, ask the shop assistant what they thought – and if you were lucky they would have heard of and about the game, so might be able to give you some useful info – or not – then either purchase it or walk away to spend your money on a different game.

This is where my first problem with the game begins – with the Providers who don’t allow, or can’t find a way to facilitate free trials/or Demos of Large File games.  In this case, they would quickly find that no-one was buying the game and would remove it from their list.  Instead, they should pressure WHITE BIRD to create Patches that they could auto-download to existing customers, or to purchasing customers.

The game has a very strange opening to its Main Menu – you think something is wrong with the game immediately, that you aren’t even going to get a Main Menu until you notice the Start button which you press.  This opens to the Main Menu, where you can enter your Profile (I think – the game took so long to play I have now forgotten), check the Options (or is it Settings) to make adjustments to Music, Voices, and Special Effects – TIP: don’t turn the voice too low as it is fairly quiet anyway, and Dialogue is essential to the gameplay – decide whether you want Adventure or Race Against Time modes of play – TIP: for a first run through (as you may never reach a second) use Adventure, which is hard enough – then press Play to watch the intro video – TIP: watch it all – every bit of video footage is crucial.

Visually the game is well designed, with great attention to details, though an odd use of sepia tones where colour would have been spectacular.  The Art Deco building is architectually amazing – many locations just give access to others, as the game uses almost the complete building.  The island terrain, where you spend much of the early stage of the game, is well portrayed, with thrashing palms and rough seas due to the increasing cyclonic weather.

The 3D CG characters are as good as a game from 2006 could be – their movements are fairly fluid, (TIP: double-click to make them run) though with exaggerated hand and arm movements, but no mouth movements during speech – disappointing.  The accompanying Dialogue is great (though you can’t FastForward through it) – TIP: definitely have the subtitles ON as you glean more details that way, plus some of the characters speak less clearly.  You do identify easily with the characters, and can find yourself urging them on loudy as the frustration sets in.

The use of the mouse/cursor is crucial – it’s just the circle, turned into an oval with a tiny little arrow edge for moving, a tiny hand for collection, a tiny camera for pics, and a tiny magnifier to look at things.  I know it sounds normal-ish, but it’s SO easy to miss items in this game.  In some scenes the Exit Right Cursor-arrow is on the extreme edge (in my case) of the screen, which can slip and shut the game down to the Desktop bottom task bar.  This is handy for checking a Walkthrough for where to go next, or where the missing item is, or if you need to go back to a previous Save level to reclaim it.  TIP: Save the game regularly as you proceed – it only takes a moment, and will save you much frustration later – well it will modify it anyway.  To return to the game that just slipped out of your control, click on the game Icon in the Desktop Taskbar and it returns you instantly to the page you were on – thankfully.

TIP: Another Cursor Glitch is that at a point towards the end of the game it will make your character, Detective Inspector Jack Norm, walk off the bottom of the screen out of sight.  Panic not.  Move the Cursor to the left arrow position and click and Jack will appear walking into the next scene.

TIP: If the screen freezes, press Ctrl/Alt/Del, click Task Manager, then click on game Icon on Desktop bottom Taskbar, to restore the game in active mode again.

Continually use the PDA – Character info Left button; Working and Clues page button centre; Mandate Puzzle button Right.  Understand the Mandate procedure; to combine items or check prints click the Combine button at the bottom of the Clues page, then an item from each column.   If correct, great.  If not, try another combo.  Read all Documents and Reports found – everything – double-click to magnify them.

The order in which the game needs to be played is not rigid – you can investigate freely MOST of the time with no consequence) – but there are UNKNOWN exceptions.  So frustrating as the only indication of this is when you reach an impasse.  The only way you know which order to play the game in is if you consult a Walkthrough, or the official Strategy Guide – which I understand, from the overwhelming comments of the Forums, is not much help at all.  So I refused to buy it – I may be doing myself a disservice here, and may be maligning the Strat Guide.  However, I believe that it should be available in all Standard Games formats anyway, included in the existing price!

I am including a few links to Hints and Walkthroughs that you can take advantage of, or not if you want to go it alone.  These were crucial to my completion of this game.  I don’t like to use them, but I had to give in.

The first two links below help in different ways – the UHS Hints link gives a different kind of Walkthrough which I like – it gives you tiny bits of info at a time so that you can return to solve your  problem as soon as you get enough, or read them all before returning.  It gives you a choice.  However in several of the Mandates (questions that must be investigated then answered to progress) there is a discrepancy in how many Documents, or Declarations, or Material clues, or Prints and Pics are needed – my recently bought game seems to be an upgraded version.  To resolve this I resorted to the YouTube Link, which also proved invaluable in giving me the order in which items needed to be found.

Sinking Island – End Mandate not matching with the  walkthrus. PPA wants more than listed

This final link takes you directly to resolve another Glitch with the game – in the most recent version being sold, in the Final Mandate there are EXTRA declarations and items that other walkthroughs do not mention.  This info was discovered by Kiedon – clownfish as a result of 3 weeks of  mind-numbing perseverent trial and error in the Mandate page of the PDA in the game.  If you can’t find the relevant Forum entry with the info, then I can give it to you – ask me in Comment on my blog and I will reply with the info.  I will do that to the best of my ability and memory for any other problems you have.

If you like Large File games, if you like Adventure Crime games, if you don’t mind paying for a game that will give you hours of frustration with moments of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” then go ahead and buy it.  I am still in two minds as to whether I should have bought it.  I am a huge fan of Crime/Adventure games – especially CSI games, and the CG Agatha Christie Poirot games – so I took the risk.  I don’t know if I’ll play it again, even if time-constraints weren’t a factor.  I’m just not sure.  I was glad when it was done, but tainted by the fact that towards the end I had to resort to Hints and Walkthroughs.

Jud House  29/12/2012

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