Radiation Island begins with an island appearing and disappearing in front of you. If you think the game is bugging out then think again, as this is a deliberate “effect” that just looks like a game breaking. Eventually you inexplicably end up on the island looking at the ship you were just on doing the same thing. Once gone you are left to explore an uninhabited beach.
Over the course of your exploration of the island, you will come across journal entries that tell you the story. This whole story has to do with a military experiment meant to turn naval ships invisible, dubbed the ‘Philadelphia Project’. This has moved you into a different reality of sorts, where this zombie infested island exists. Essentially though, you just need to escape back to your own reality.
Sound effects in Radiation Island are rather dull and lifeless. You will hear very generic footsteps, swings of weapons, rustling of leaves, you name it. The quality is rather poor too, with sounds being grainy and occasionally clip if more than the bare minimum is happening on screen. This is all most noticeable with enemies, as growls of bears and wolves sound horrendously low quality.
As for the music, well, there barely is any. Generally as you go about your business, there will be no music whatsoever. This would be fine, except out of nowhere music will begin to blare out of your speakers, the reason being completely beyond me. Is there an enemy nearby? No. Is there something important around me? No. This inconsistency is jarring to say the least. Not only that, the music is of poor quality, and doesn’t really fit the “deserted zombie infested island” motif.
Visuals & Performance
A looker this is not. That is to be expected, considering this is a port of a mobile title. Most of the assets used look extremely generic. From the grass and ocean, to the bears and zombies, every bit of this game just looks bland. The game looks a lot better in first person mode too, as third person shows off the horrible animations (more on that in the gameplay section).
Buildings mostly look the same, just the same drab environments. Deja Vu sets in quickly, as this bland desolate island sprawls on for what seems like an eternity. Radiation Island never establishes its own style, thus creating a rather incoherent mash up of lifelike models. Their trees look like trees that could be from any game, just not done as well. Same could be said for the bears, houses, walls, sand, hills, ocean, every aspect of the game.
That all said, the game does run well. Slowdowns were minimal, and I never experienced any game breaking bugs or crashes. A mobile game definitely should run well on the Switch hardware, but it is still noteworthy that their work in this regard was done to satisfactory standard.
Radiation Island is a survival game through and through. You start on an island with nothing, and are forced to scavenge for supplies, craft tools, hunt food, and escape the dangerous dark of night. As you progress, you begin to craft better gear, allowing you to explore more of the island and take more risks. If this sounds like every other survival game of the past 5 or so years then that’s because this does nothing different.
I am going to sum up my gameplay experience a little bit differently this time around. This section will run through my first in game day, with a little more elaboration at the end. I won’t be touching any of the main story areas in this, so if you plan on playing this then you won’t have to worry about spoilers. Most of this is taken directly from the notes I took as I played, and seems to be the best way to sum up how this game was to play.
After seeing an island appear and disappear, followed by a boat, I’m now on a beach covered in rabbits. I’ve never seen a rabbit at the beach but whatever. I guess the island disappearing was supposed to happen?! Thought the game broke watching that. Anyway, this beach looks ok I guess. Kinda bland if anything.
First goal, get twigs and flint to make a crude axe to cut down trees, getting me wood so I can make a pickaxe, so I can get stone to… let’s get this started. The beach is littered with twigs and flint, which is convenient. Now it’s time to craft this axe.
This menu system is a mess! It takes a good few seconds to bring up the menu, which means crafting mid battle will be out due to the game not actually pausing. Navigating the menu is done via the L and R buttons, but the menu is on screen top down. Not only that, R scrolls up, not down like you would expect. Each menu has a sub menu, but they are scrolled through via L and R as well, which makes this whole system a confusing chore to navigate at all! Being a survival game half my time will be spent in this menu too, so I can look forward to that.
Chopping down my first tree, and boy is that a hilarious sight to see. The whole tree falls over, roots and all!!! And I only got 4 wood from it. A tree about 3 stories tall, thicker than an SUV, nets 4 wood. It seems each hit of you axe gets you a chance at gaining a piece of wood. As it’s a roll of the dice, there is every chance cutting down a whole tree will net you no wood whatsoever. Quite a weird system. This goes for mining as well.
Well night is now upon me, so I guess it’s time to go inside. There is a cold meter that’s slowly filling up, which I guess will kill me if it fills. I’ll make a bed and sleep til morning. There is a building close by I can get to so I can place it and be good to go…
Or so I thought. Placing the bed, it actually placed not quite where I put it. Instead, it is halfway through the wall of the house. The icon for a vicious animal spotting me has appeared, and I hear wolves. Frantically I try to sleep, but my character just runs into the wall, unable to stand where needed to interact with the bed. I rush outside to try and outrun the wolves, and am greeted to 15 of them! And I’m dead. Yep, this is fuuuun…
So as you can see, my first day was not fun, and the problems I encountered only continued and got worse the further into the game I got. The battle system for instance, requires zero skill whatsoever. It is a lock on based system, where you press a button to target the enemy, press attack, then a roll of the dice decides whether you hit or miss. This makes battles just dull overall. If you have the ammo to spare you will win, if not you won’t. There is nothing tense or exciting about it.
Placing items was always a hassle. The game will allow you to place items in areas you cannot interact with it. This is extremely frustrating as this just doesn’t waste the item you placed, but the valuable materials you used to craft it. In a game like this this is unacceptable.
Also there are items that require you have materials that the item itself gets. This is first seem with the iron pickaxe. The iron pickaxe mines iron, but you need iron to make the iron pickaxe. As the items in each chest scattered throughout the world is random, you can spend forever trying to find the iron necessary to make the pickaxe to mine iron.
Scavenging for the iron is also a chore, as the world itself is completely dull. Each area looks as bland as the last, every house looks the same, every bunker a concrete building of boredom. And then we add weather into the mix. All that does is mess with visibility. Fog turns the screen completely white, which doesn’t make things tense or interesting, just annoying. And rain just changes the look, even indoors as the game doesn’t care if there is a roof over your head or not, the rain will fall inside anyway.
Third person fun
I did find some small joy in the games third person perspective. The joy I found was with the games terrible animations, which are laughably hilarious. A simple jump has your character wiggle his arms like a bird. Throwing a boomerang has his arm cock back, but the boomerang flings from his chest before the throwing action has even started. The sound of your weapon swings is so far off of the actual swinging animation that I was laughing out loud the whole time. Unfortunately a games laughably poor animations is not the only highlight you want for your game.
This is a difficult game to judge it’s value on. There is a rather big hole in the Switch’s library for straight up survival games. That is a hole Radiation Island fills, but it is also a lackluster game to fill that void with. It is also a mobile port, with the mobile version being significantly cheaper than it’s Switch counterpart. Because of this I would suggest that this games value should be questioned, and feel it is not worth your hard earned cash.
Third person perspective brings some hilarity
Menu system is terrible