Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

[Review] Radiation Island – Nintendo Switch


Radiation Island
Nintendo Switch

Developed By: Atypical Games
Published By: Atypical Games
Category: Crafting, Survival, Exploration
Release Date: 02.22.2018

Mobile gaming has been making some pretty huge strides in the last few years, but the general consensus has been that it has a ways to go before catching up to console games in terms of what is possible in scale and overall quality. So, when I got Radiation Island for Nintendo Switch I was prepared to be pretty underwhelmed by this port of a mobile game. What I ended up with was a rock-solid exploration and crafting based survival game. It can be a little under-polished at times, but overall it’s a fun experience with the right amount of challenge to keep it interesting all the way to the end.

Radiation Island Nintendo Switch

Most important in any game is the gameplay, which is very competently designed. The basic elements of the game are crafting, combat, and exploration, and we’ll talk about crafting first. Like other crafting-based games, you have to gather materials to turn into items that can be used to perform tasks in the game. Some materials are just right there on the ground to be picked up, but others have to be harvested using different tools, which you can craft using the more basic materials. There’s a pretty natural progression of collect basic ingredients, craft basic tools, collect higher level materials, craft higher level tools, and repeat until you’ve crafted the best tools in the game. You can also craft weapons, armor, and ammunition for the combat. The tech tree is very well-rounded, with enough levels to be discovered to keep you advancing consistently as you traipse across the island. Additionally,  buildings and furniture can be crafted, some of which can have effects in-game, but I found it mostly to just be window dressing. Still, it’s a cool feature to be able to build your own houses as you go through the island.

Radiation Island Nintendo Switch

As far as the combat goes, it’s fairly simple but it has some nuance. The game is mostly in a first-person perspective, but you can switch to a third person view if you really want to. I wouldn’t recommend that for the combat, but it’s a pretty good view for exploration. You can use your resource gathering tools (axes, picks, and machetes) as melee weapons if you have to, but I would always stick with long-range weapons for combat (slingshots, bows and arrows, boomerangs, and various kinds of firearms are available to be crafted or scavenged). In melee combat, there is no way to block or dodge, so against most enemies melee is a waste of time. Many enemies have some chance of inflicting really harmful status ailments or causing ridiculous amounts of damage in melee, so staying back and raining death from a distance is really the superior option. Zombies and mountain lions and bears can be very unforgiving. Wolves are easier, but they hunt in packs. Don’t even get me started on crocodiles.

Radiation Island Nintendo Switch

But the real appeal of the game lies in the exploration of the game world. The game opens with the titular Radiation Island appearing out of thin air in the middle of the ocean, and then there is a short tutorial explaining the basic mechanics and then… that’s it. Everything else is up to you to figure out. Your character progression, your equipment loadout, even the game’s story is all up to you to discover. The story of the game is mostly told through the discovery of journal entries scattered about in crates and in buildings which explain the history and goals of the mysterious Philadelphia Experiment that spawned Radiation Island and drops hints as to how you can escape. There are creepy old buildings to explore, military camps infested by zombies to raid, and even buried treasure to dig up! There’s always something new to find, and that’s what really makes the game tick.

The developers made some really cool choices with the sound for the game as well. The music is somber and muted, which adds to the sparse, moody atmosphere of the game and especially at night makes for a pretty creepy experience with all those glowing zombies and random balls of fire hanging around. And worst of all… night crocodiles. Crocodiles in the night. It’s all my worst nightmares at once.

Radiation Island Nintendo Switch

While it is a very fun game world to explore, the game has some drawbacks graphically. As I said in the open, Radiation Island is a port of a mobile game, and the graphics are limited in all the ways you would expect the graphics of that kind of game to be. The textures are fairly simple and look like something slightly slicker than what you would expect from last-gen games; which is to say, not what I have come to expect from the Switch. Nothing looks crummy, exactly, and the overall art design of the game is consistent with some really creepy and cool zombie models (the hazmat-suited zombies with big green needle-gun arms are an especial favorite), but when compared to other open world type games on the Switch (Zelda or LA Noire, just to name a couple), it just seems a little plain. It looks fine on the small screen, but the graphics really show all their warts on a big screen. This game is not recommended for play on a TV.

TL;DR: Despite some mildly underwhelming visuals, Radiation Island is definitely worth a look. The gameplay is challenging and the mysterious backstory is intriguing enough to sustain the game through to the end.

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