Review Date: Feb 27, 2010
Developer: Anino Games
Price: $6.99 (Publisher's Site)
Genre: Hidden Object
Shutter Island the game is loosely based on the film of the same name, in which U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is sent to investigate a missing patient at a hospital for the criminally insane. I say loosely because, while the game features the same characters, settings, and a few plot points with the film its based on, it also glosses over the majority of the story, including the very important twist of an ending. And this all just serves as window dressing for a title that ends up being little more than a fairly standard, and frequently frustrating, hidden object game.
A Good Start
Things start out promising: when Daniels first arrives at Shutter Island, along with his partner Chuck, it's clear that something is amiss. The guards and doctors aren't very cooperative and their missing patient seems to have vanished. Unfortunately, while the game does a decent job of creating an eerie atmosphere, the story is simply too basic to be compelling. Major plot points seem to be missing, making the whole experience feel like a series of unconnected events. You're tasked with solving a mystery yet given little to no details about what it is you're investigating.
The same goes for the actual gameplay. Initially, the objects you're finding are actually related to what you need to do. Finding a sledgehammer to break down a door, or finding a lantern to light up a room, for instance. But soon enough the experience devolves into a typical HOG, with you forced to to find seemingly random objects amidst of mess of other random objects. Sometimes what you're finding will still factor into the plot of the game, and the game even has the occasional cool idea -- such as searching for numbers scrawled on the walls of one particular patient's room -- to try and keep things interesting. But like the plot of the game, the hidden object sections of Shutter Island are filled with plenty of frustrating and underdeveloped moments.
Find Six Bullets...In A Rain Storm
The biggest problem is that many of the objects are so small as to be nearly impossible to find. By the time you've finished the game, you'll have found far more bullets, cigarettes, and pencils than you ever cared to. To make matters worse, the game is a little touchy when it comes to clicking on some of these smaller objects. So even once you've found that tiny pair of scissors, it make take a few clicks before the game agrees that you have, indeed, found them.
Occasionally the game will also throw some visual effects -- such as a flickering light bulb or ominous fog -- to make things a touch more difficult. These would've been a nice addition, but when coupled with the rest of the game, they just serve to annoy more than anything. These frustrations also aren't helped much by the game's visual style. Nearly everything on Shutter Island seems to be a shade of brown or grey, which makes picking out objects even more difficult. The art also isn't always that clear, making it tough decipher what some objects actually are.
In an attempt to tie the experience into the movie better, the text-based conversations in the game are accompanied by images of some of the actors from the film. Strangely though, not everyone is accounted for. While Mark Ruffalo and and Ben Kingsley make an appearance, leading man Leonardo DiCaprio has been replaced by the image of a badge. It's probably a good thing for Leo though, as these cut-out images look pretty awful.
The one redeeming quality of Shutter Island's presentation is the sound design, which does most of the work in creating a semi-creepy atmosphere. The music is dark and foreboding, and the occasional disembodied scream can be quite unsettling.
The Bottom Line
But for the most part the game just feels lazy. The concept of the film seems like a great fit for a HOG but it's ultimately squandered. Shutter Island is short (clocking in at under three hours), frustrating, and doesn't capitalize on any of the strengths of the franchise. Worse still, the ending is shockingly abrupt, so much so that it makes you wonder why you played the game in the first place. It's entirely unsatisfying and, if you've seen the film, misses the entire point.