Escape Dead Island

Escape Dead Island is flawed and should be a lesson on how not to tell a story.

By JohnnRckr, Posted 25 Nov 2014

Zombies, like the plague itself, have been infesting every single aspect of media and entertainment. I don’t want to be the one who says it, but zombies are played out, even though I am a fan of the genre. Nevertheless, there are some exemplary ways how to portray them and how to make a game out of them successfully. We can mention Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead, the first Resident Evil, The Last of Us, Dead Rising, Day Z, and, ultimately, Dead Island. Dead Island’s spin-off, Escape Dead Island, is the complete opposite of this.

Escape Dead Island Zombies

Some zombie games don’t take themselves too seriously, Dead Rising and its black humor and ridiculous weapon set, for example, and not every game dealing with the atrocities of the post-apocalypse, sinister corporations and the undead have to be realistic and grim. Then again, there is a fine line between not taking yourself too seriously and trying to do so and failing. Before you continue reading, I need to address the fact that I have not played any Dead Island title prior to this one, but I am acquaintance with the game and its gameplay, which I find very interesting. That is why I can’t understand why the studio behind Escape Dead Island decided to head a completely different direction from the core series. Instead of using the previously established first-person view the game is set in third person; second, it abandons the RPG mechanics of the first game; thirdly, the game is presented in a cartoonish fashion, with cell-shading animation –which is the most appealing quality of the game. Visuals are Viewtiful (pun intended), but nothing we haven’t seen before, lastly, the game itself is closer to the hack-and-slash instead an open-world exploration RPG that other games in the series have used.

The main character is totally unappealing and incapable to empathize with. The story does little to motivate you, instead it’s a big mess with no direction and a poor excuse for a  narrative. We are presented with a trio of students, two of them aspiring journalists, in their quest to unravel the mysterious reports of unusual activities in the Banoi archipelago. There’s a problem right there, it’s hard to believe such a flawed and convenient premise. Coupled with daddy issues from the main character, whom, by the way, is the heir to a vast fortune. Yeah, right.

But, let’s back up a little, because there’s more than just these three kids. As soon as you start a new game, you’re thrown directly into controlling some sort of techno-ninja armed with a katana and dress-up in full environmental suit and  equipped with a respirator, who tries to makes his way through some sort of scientific compound in order to kill a mole. There’s no backstory, no explanation and, ultimately, no reason for this to exist. Because, even though it presents minimal context and, later, the apparent demise of the character is has something to do with the story, we can’t invest emotionally in the character; it could’ve been something that happened off-screen and nothing would’ve changed, and his actions are worthless gameplay wise. It just serves as a prelude and a hook for gamers looking for a katana-wielding zombie-killing guy.

Escape Dead Island Review

The story surrounding the kids back on the story is bewildering, they might just as well landed on the island on Lost, then all that happens there could be justified. The story, as cliché as it can be, deals with wild conspiracy theories regarding a pharmaceutical company and its implications in the outbreak of a zombie virus. Eventually, the girl, gets bitten by an undead and things go from bad to worst. But it doesn’t stop there, the further you advance into the story and the better you get acquainted with the island is when everything starts to shift in the wrong direction. The story becomes some sort of pseudo psychological thriller in which nothing makes sense and the developers offer no explanation to what is happening. The plot twists, which is in every act, become more ridiculous. Upon reaching the end a lack of satisfaction, confusion and, even, anger will begin to fill your body as you wonder why you wasted time completing this journey. When you think they’re going to explain what’s really going on, everything goes to hell and you find yourself scratching your head and wondering why you played this in the first place. The last part of the game reminded me those dream/nightmare sequences you get in the Max Payne series, but executed in a much inferior fashion.

I can say that it this game has one of the most frustrating and unresponsive combat mechanics I’ve suffered in a while. Melee combat is key in the game, but facing your opponents, much faster, active and damaging than a zombie should be, becomes pure torture and death is imminent. That’s why stealth attacks, one hit assassinations, are preferred than facing the enemies directly. That may sound like a good feature but in Escape Dead Island, you spend most of your time crouching to avoid zombie detection. You can take them out before you’re overrun…by three of them.  The weapon tier is very limited, with only a handful of options for both ranged and melee weapons. The limitation is comprehensible due to the survival situation but that doesn’t take away the constraint of weapon diversity.

Escape Dead Island Zombie Review

The music in the game has nothing new to add to the genre and it’s quite generic for a video game. The score doesn’t add any tension of being in a hostile situation and loud music will only play during combat, with classic suspense tones and trumpets.

Cinematic are a whole different situation.. As the game is presented in a comic book style, cinematic are too, and even especial enemies are introduced as if they were characters in Scott Pilgrim or Super Smash Bros. character announcement trailers. I can’t stress enough the fact that visual elements are the only real asset of the game.

I played for about 10 hours, some of the most frustrating 10 hours of my life, and finished the main story with almost half the collectibles in the game. You’re search for documents, audio recordings, and post-cards and have the chance to take pictures with your camera. Some collectibles add to the story while others are there just for collecting. Taking pictures was appealing at first but towards the end became a burden especially during the end of the game when you lose your camera.

If you’re a fan of the zombie genre or if you’re a fan of the Dead Island games, avoid Escape Dead Island; trust me when I say you won’t be missing anything and you will save yourself hours of frustration and quite a headache. The game is flawed and should be a lesson on how not to tell a story. Even when you want to be cryptic of deep you should never ever do what this game does, especially in that same fashion AND, I can’t shake this off my head, with the cheap gimmick in the post-credits “scene”.

Jonathan Coutiño, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Publisher(s): Deep Silver
Developer(s): Fatshark
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Survival Horror
Release Date: 2014-11-18

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