App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
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Vulture Island is a platformer that borrows elements from a lot of classic games, like Metroid, Super Mario Bros., and The Secret of Monkey Island. While these are all great games in their own right, Vulture Island's combination of them ends up feeling a bit disjointed and confusing.
Lost and alone
In Vulture Island, you take control of three travelers who have crash landed on a mysterious island as they look for traces of their friend and a way to escape. What's more, each of these characters are on a separate part of the island, complete with their own sets of obstacles, puzzles, and mysteries.
In a gameplay sense, all this really means is that there are three separate arcs in the game that you can tackle in whatever order you want. You can bounce between characters, but they don't really have much interplay between them and the differences between characters is solely cosmetic. Everyone can run and jump the same way, but their environments and the things you do and find in them can vary significantly.
Although you can do things in any order you want, Vulture Island's levels aren't as simple as just "run to the right and survive." Most of them require items that you aren't quite sure how to get, knowledge that you don't quite have yet, or some combination of the two.
This kind of design demands that you experiment to see what works, which often ends in death. Dying in this game doesn't seem like a bummer at first, since levels are pretty short and you have infinite lives, but the fact that death also resets your coin count is pretty frustrating given how you have to pay to get certain items or solve puzzles in the game.
More than the dying penalty, the obtuse puzzle design in Vulture Island is far and away the most frustrating thing about it. I understand wanting to make puzzles challenging, but Vulture Island has quite a few puzzle solutions that just don't make any sense.
For instance there is a point in the game where you have to destroy some rocks by using bug spray on them. This, paired with the fact that Vulture Island does painfully little to direct you, results in a lot of aimless, frustrating wandering.
The bottom line
I really wanted to like Vulture Island, especially since it was made by Donut Games, makers of the excellent Traps n' Gemstones. That, and the game wears a lot really great inspirational touchstones on its sleeve. Unfortunately though, I spent the majority of my time with the game dying repeatedly or looking at a walkthrough and rolling my eyes at puzzle solutions, which was not particularly fun or satisfying.