19th Apr2018

Digital Shorts: ‘Radiation Island’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Phil Wheat

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Radiation Island, a new walking sim/adventure game now available on the Nintendo Switch.

radiation-island-switch

Another mobile game making the move to console, Radiation Island is part walking sim, part survival horror game – you start out wandering the beach, collecting sticks and rocks, coming across the occasional food source and local wildlife. But a bit more exploring sees you climb into the hills on the titular island, where things get a little scarier… Rabid wolves, weird noises and the ever-imposing radiation of the title – there’s a reason your character wears a radiation suit you know!

I’ll be brutally honest, I’ve never seen the appeal in the “walking sim” genre. Whilst I’ve read many positive reviews of games of this ilk, in my personal experience I’ve always found the games to be tedious – give me some action to get involved in, some danger I can really get a grip on. Which is why I was looking forward to Radiation Island. The game, at least on paper, sounds like the next level of walking sim – adding RPG elements, a more involved story that really relies on the player to bring it to life, with decisions really adding to the ever-evolving story. But in the end what this game turns out to be is… another tedious walking sim.

OK, so once you get into the meat of the game and the danger and tension amps up there is some fun to be had with Radiation Island, but until then this is yet another meandering first-person title that, honestly, sees you spend more time collecting items to craft weapons, hunt, etc. than moving the story forward. And if you do try and skip forward, ignoring all the RPG-like crafting and scavenging, then you’ll find yourself struggling in the latter portion of the game. Which, for me, made this an incredibly frustrating experience. By the time I’d collected my umpteenth rock or twig I was sick and tired of playing the game.

Now here’s where you’d expect me to say “but bear with it and the game opens up into a fantastic action-adventure.” Yeah… not going to happen. Instead all I can say is that Radiation Island is for the more hardcore RPG fan – one that doesn’t mind spending hours, nay days, grinding and grinding and enjoys immersing themselves in the more mundane. For the rest of us? I’d suggest playing the likes of The Last of Us or any of the Uncharted games. Games which offer a storytelling experience which this game tries to emulate but fails.

If you’re a fan of walking sims like Firewatch and Dear Esther then there might be something in Radiation Island for you. Though this is not one I can personally recommend.

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