Review: The Island of Dr. Frankenstein (Nintendo Wii)

The Island of Dr. Frankenstein
Developer: Visual Impact Productions
Publisher: Storm City Entertainment
Genre: Adventure
Release Date: 10/20/09

I was sold on the game The Island of Dr. Frankenstein by being told that it was nominated for “Best Video Game of 2009″ in France. Around these parts, I am usually tortured by Zoo games and DS titles aimed towards little girls. The possibility of playing one of the “best of 2009″ certainly seemed promising.

But then, I remembered the French bit. I remembered that I hate Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain.

On the other hand, I do like baguettes.

1. Story
The story of The Island of Dr. Frankenstein is wonderful. It is funny and charming. The characters are all distinct, recognizable and entirely zany.

You play the game as Frankie. Our young protagonist is described as liking two things, sleep and rest. Finally, a video game character I can understand. Unfortunately for Frankie, he is also the one solely responsible for keeping Monstrous Island (AKA the Island of Dr. Frankenstein) in the air.

Yep, it is a floating island, designed to be a haven for persecuted monsters. Frankie is in charge of cleaning up these disruptive cloudlike gremlins called vaporites, who would otherwise wreak havoc on the machines keeping the island in the sky.

Naturally on the island of Dr. Frankenstein, you can find Frankenstein’s creature. He is actually split into two monsters; the top half sits atop a wheel while the bottom half is simply a set of legs that occasionally stomps out messages to Frankie. Also here you can find a self-absorbed gill woman, a food obsessed mummy, an arrogant werewolf king, an eloquent vampire, and a few others. Dr. Frankenstein, described by my press release as being Frankie’s half uncle (huh?), is here as well, but only exists as a disembodied face on some sort of steam-punk monitor.

There are normal humans as well, who were picnicking nearby when the island went up in the air. They have established a system of government wherein a new mayor is elected everyday and afforded a hat and beard to establish his authority.

Soon, Frankie is tasked with fixing items and solving mysteries in typical adventure game fashion. Which is to say, Frankie spends a good chunk of time acquiring random objects to solve odd missions. Frankie rolls with it though, eventually adopting the attitude of “sure, I’ll take this fish scale; I don’t know how it possibly could, but I’m sure it will come in handy.”

The Island of Dr. Frankenstein never takes itself too seriously, and is a lot of fun to play.

2. Graphics
The Island of Dr. Frankenstein is not going to blow anybody away with its polygon counts or level of realism. The game is almost entirely a “mostly overhead” view and is not going to shatter anybody’s world view as to the Wii’s graphical capabilities.

Still, the world is laid out nicely. The designs of the characters and backgrounds mesh together quite well. The game has an appealing style to it, consistent and cartoony. It reminds me a bit of the movie Igor, except that the game’s visual presentation is much brighter, more appealing, and in a general sense much better than that terrible film.

3. Sound/ Music
There is no voice acting in The Island of Dr. Frankenstein. All the dialogue is presented solely as text. There are few musical tracks as well. Basically, the entire game is split up into three acts, and each act gets its own song.

Though limited, the music is not unwelcome. It is nice enough, fits in with the light tone of the adventure, and manages to add a sense of urgency for the game’s climax

There are a number of sound effects, like subtle engine noises and chirping birds, that add to the player’s ability to immerse himself in the game.

4. Control / Gameplay
The game controls well enough. The stick on the nunchuck moves Frankie throughout the island. I only managed to get him stuck on invisible walls twice, and never irrevocably so.

To clean up the vaporites, Frankie gets a steam pack. You aim the steam pack by pointing the Wii mote, and activate it with the B button. Basically, Frankie sucks them up into his backpack, and can use them for such things as powering the steam pack’s drill or building gears.

Most of the vaporites are white, but if Frankie sucks up a black one, he will lose some of the vaporites he has collected. If Frankie lets too many vaporites accumulate on the island, the whole world starts to shake, and eventually the island will fall. I have to say, it looks pretty neat when the island shakes.

The B button also operates the steam pack’s drill, but this button sharing is rarely a problem. The drill is used for digging out meteorites scattered on the island. When Frankie is near a buried meteorite, the Wii mote beeps like a metal detector, and an onscreen prompt tells you when you can drill. Meteorites are needed in order to build gears.

The gears come into play during the mechanical mini-games. Basically, these are puzzle games where Frankie has to fix various pieces of broken equipment by using gears to connect an energy stream from one device to another. Usually there is a fairly simple solution to these puzzles, but you can also come up with outlandishly gear-heavy scenarios provided you have enough raw materials.

Like in Ghostbusters, never cross the streams.

5. Replayabilty
Here is the big downside to The Island of Dr. Frankenstein: upon completing the game, you are done. The file will say 100%. If you click on it you will see the map scroll over your screen with the words “thanks for playing” superimposed over it.

You cannot replay levels, missions, or mini-games. Each mission only has one solution, so even though there is a second profile, I don’t see the point of the same person using it.

There is no high score to beat. The game doesn’t keep track of how well or fast you did anything. There are no branches to the storyline. There are no other difficult levels. There is no reason to play the game a second time, aside from experiencing the quite amusing story once again.

6. Balance
The Island of Dr. Frankenstein is never very hard. Nothing can really hurt Frankie. The only negative consequence to look out for is in losing your vaporites. You can lose vaporites by sucking up a black vaporite, or by walking into one of the game’s mini-tornadoes. Even if that thing happens, there are plenty more vaporites on the island.

No worries.

The second part of the game is actually easier than the first, because you gain the ability to suck up the black vaporites, and subsequently shoot them to kill the tornadoes.

The third part of the game introduces lightning clouds that can electrify Frankie. They aren’t too hard to avoid, and all that electrocution does is slow Frankie somewhat and momentarily change the directional inputs of the control stick.

The final mission of the game involves a time limit in which Frankie has to backtrack through a mazelike area, find something and solve a mechanical mini-game. Despite having one of the world’s worst sense of direction, I was able to complete this mission on the third try.

7. Originality
As much as I like this game, it doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from scores of “grab everything and rub everything on everything else” adventure games. It adds a competent mini-game to the mix, but adding a mini-game to the Wii is like drawing tail fins on your sketch of a “Ëœ57 Chevy. We expect it.

And even though I quite enjoy it, parodying classic movie monsters is hardly breaking new ground.

8. Addictiveness
I found The Island of Dr. Frankenstein highly addictive. There are many reasons for this thing. Mostly, it was do to the fact that the story was so enjoyable, and that it is fun to suck up little clouds with a back-pack-vac. I also enjoy that the game allows Frankie to have several missions to accomplish simultaneously. He might need to find a mirror for the missing link, get some chicken for the mummy and help the creature’s legs deal with an itchy boot all at the same time.

One of the biggest things that made it hard to pull myself away from this game, though? No manual saving. The game only saves your file when it wants to do this thing (read as: after completing a mission). I might have spent an hour sucking up vaporites, but the game won’t recognize that thing if I power down and try to come back to it. No, it won’t let me save until I get that fish bone out of the ogre’s throat!

It’s kind of genius when you think about it.

9. Appeal Factor
Adventure games aren’t quite what they used to be. The kids don’t really talk about them, right?

Then again this game has a vampire in it.

But then again the vampire isn’t a sexy, brooding hipster.

But then again (again) the kids will always love an ironic steam punk with a werewolf overlord.

I think.

10. Miscellaneous
This game is rated E for Everyone. It is nonviolent and mostly family friendly. However, it should be noted that Franky is prone to saying “Damn!” Frankie will also twice say “pshit”, which isn’t quite a curse word.

Let it also be noted that both the game’s box and press release say that this game contains over twenty hours of gameplay. I completed this game in about six and a half hours. I was in no hurry, and spent half an hour of that time foolishly believing an elevator to be “just another big fan”.

The Scores:

Story: Incredible
Graphics: Very Good
Sound: Good
Control/Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Worthless
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Mediocre
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Bad
Final Score: Decent Game

Short Attention Span Summary
The Island of Dr. Frankenstein is immensely likable, funny and charming. Unfortunately, the experience is quite short, and the game offers zero in terms of replay value. It’s a shame because, otherwise, this is the best $20 Wii game around.



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2 responses to “Review: The Island of Dr. Frankenstein (Nintendo Wii)”

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