Hide and go seek? Bah, why bother, you wanted to hide from me, so why should I care about you. Where’s Waldo? Apparently he wants to hide and be by himself, so why don’t we just respect his privacy and let him be. When it comes to games where you’re supposed to look stuff through, scrutinizing it to the letter so you are going through and crossing all the Ts and dotting all the lower case Js (like the Wayne’s World 2 reference?) to find what you are looking for, it just doesn’t equal fun to me. Or at least it didn’t until Mystery of Shark Island.
Mystery of Shark Island is all about one thing, throwing up a bunch of junk on the screen and having you look through it to find the objects the game is asking you for. I went into the game rather blind, not knowing a thing about it, and expecting it to be along the lines of Bejeweled perhaps. Much to my surprise I found I was supposed to look for stuff, click it and that was it. Oooh, so challenging! However, I should’ve left my sarcasm in check at the time, because it wasn’t long till I was screaming cause I couldn’t find the last starfish on the beach before the wave came along.
The main mode at least to me of the game is the Story Mode, which genuinely has a beginning to end story. Now, that isn’t to say we’re reading Steinbeck while playing the game, or that the gameplay even really ties into the story, but it is still a nice inclusion, which you get mostly from static screens before some levels, but occasionally you’ll pick a shell up with markings on it while playing a level, and your character will hear children laughing or talking. The main idea of the story is that you landed on this island, a broke arm, but you find it healing remarkably quickly, you no longer need your glasses because your eyes have gotten better, and you appear to be getting younger the longer you stay there. If you pay attention, you’ll probably have a good idea where the story is ultimately going. Though the ending might be telegraphed and there isn’t a lot of story, the equal mixture of what was there plus the gameplay itself had me constantly playing to see what did happen next, as the game has that great “one more level” mentality to it. The game also has an arcade mode, where you can play on the islands you’ve unlocked, and try survive for as long as you can, getting all the points you can, as you try to find all the items you need before the wave wipes them all back out to sea.
And that is the gameplay of the game â€“ you are on an island, a wave comes in, and up on the shore it washes a bunch of ocean garbage, including things like seahorses, sand dollars, unicorn shells, stones, starfish, and other such items. Once everything has washed up, at the bottom of the screen you’ll have a slot where items will appear, and to get the most points you must find all the items. Click on the items as you find them, find them all, and then the next wave comes in â€“ each level consists of so many waves, and if your point total at the end of all waves equals that of the goal, you move on and advance through the story (we are assuming here you are playing through the story).
Now beyond the goal score is an expert score, and it will take some combos to reach that height, as well as moving as quick as you can. Beyond getting points just for finding the items, you also get bonus points for other conditions. For starters, you get extra points for the amount of time still left on your counter until the next wave comes in, so by solving the wave as quick as you can, you’ll get more points. You’ll also get more points for performing combos, which equals picking up the same objects in a row before moving on to the next. For instance, if the game is asking you to find two sand dollars and two seahorses, you’ll get more points by finding and clicking on the two sand dollars and then the two seahorses in order, rather than clicking sand dollar, seahorse, sand dollar, and finally sea horse. You’ll also get more points by building up your multiplier, which comes from clicking the right objects and not making any mistakes.
So what is the challenge? Beyond the usual of levels happening faster and faster, forcing you to react to situations quicker, you’ll also have to deal with things such as large stones that must be picked up to reveal what is underneath; dusting sand away so you can get a better picture of the object and pick it up; you’ll have mystery shaded objects in your task bar, which you must guess as to the identity of; more and more junk will pile on the screen, some of it overlapping and obscuring your view of the item you need; and of course a lot of the stuff that washes up on shore looks like the objects you need to find, only they are pieces and you need the full thing, meaning sometimes you’ll click on the partial item instead of the full one.
However, to combat these increasingly difficult challenges, you’ll occasionally find powerups to help you in your adventure, such as the wind to blow extra junk away that might be blocking your view; a powerup that will refill your timer; and an enhanced brush that will sweep dirt away quicker.
The only other real gameplay are at the end of the islands, where you must use keys you’ve found to turn dials to form a picture and allow yourself to move on; the puzzles aren’t too hard, but you can’t really fail them since there isn’t a time limit or anything, so sometimes they feel like they are just there.
As for the graphics and sound, both are remarkably well. The overall marooned island/beach feel is extremely pleasing, and the visuals of things like the waves rolling in, wind blowing junk away, and the visualization of starring at the sand, looking for specific objects is handled well, as the whole game is extremely bright and cheerful, featuring bright greens, vibrant reds, and tranquil blues rounding out the package. The sound is also nice, because the sound of waves rushing in is nailed perfectly, and the general music that plays over the game, though repeating as is the case in almost all casual games, is completely relaxing and peaceful. Really, while playing the game, not only will you be having fun but you’ll be relaxed as the game just pulls you in and throws that comforting blanket of graphics and sound around you.
In the end, the game won’t be for everyone, but for those with an open mind and who doesn’t classify themselves into a single game genre type, you’ll find quite a lot to please you in Mystery of Shark Island. Whether you are sitting in your office at work or stuck at home, fire up Mystery of Shark Island, escape for only a few minutes or hours if you like, and imagine yourself on an island adventure where you have no worries on your mind.