Adventure Island is a real treasure. Players get to live through the experience of the characters because of the way the game is set up.
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It is supposed to be the journey of a lifetime. Well, I guess it ends up that way. You book passage on a new luxurious ship that offers adventure and thrills to all who can afford it, you just never knew the thrills would be so extreme.
Half way through your voyage the ship encounters a massive storm, and that is when your worst nightmares turn into reality. You escape the sinking ship only to find yourself trying to navigate cold and unknown waters. After spending the night just trying to keep your head above water, you see something in the distance. It might be an island. You muster your remaining strength and swim towards it.
As you climb from the waters onto the white sandy beach you can finally rest, but just for a moment. You sit up in a panic that crept to the surface during your nighttime swim for safety. That is, you are it, the only one who made it. Now being safe from the waters all alone hits you like a ton of bricks.
You know the best way to combat your fear is to do something. You stand to explore the beach, but as you do, you see something or more like somethings way down the beach. As you run towards them, you discover that you really aren’t alone. Others have washed up here as well.
Well…you took passage on the boat for adventure. Now the real one starts and it may cost you your life.
Adventure Island is a cooperative adventure game for 2-5 players.
Adventure Island is a semi-legacy adventure game. It is similar to a legacy game in that the choices players make in early chapters will affect things later in the game. Yet, Adventure Island is made to be played many times without ever destroying any aspect of the game. Players will just be presented with unique experiences based on their choices when they begin new playthroughs.
Each player selects a character, who will have a unique ability. The game picks up after the crash that has stranded the group on the island. There are a handful of cards in play that represent the limited options available to the shipwrecked survivors.
The rulebook is very limited on game rules other than how to set up for the first game, how player actions work and the night/day division of the rounds. Everything else is discovered as you start to place the cards during set up and as new cards enter play. Players will eventually discover how to complete the first chapter. They must do so before any player becomes exhausted or the hazard deck runs out.
If players are successful in completing the current chapter then they will find a card that guides them to the next chapter set up and any new information they might need for that. The game continues to evolve and expand the deeper players get and new information is only provided as they need it.
I am not going to delve into the how this works beyond this brief explanation and overview and will let players discover the adventure for themselves.
Intense is probably the best word I have to describe the first time we played Adventure Island. You are thrown into the experience knowing next to nothing and have to figure out how to survive. We wanted to envelope ourselves in the experience and really feel what the characters in the game were feeling. The game did a great job at allowing us to do that.
Not knowing what we needed to do beforehand made us feel vulnerable because we knew what we needed to do to survive but we didn’t know what to do to accomplish that.As the game began to unveil itself, we started to get an idea of what needed to be done. As more and more was revealed, we started to see what our course needed to be, but by that point we were very limited on time because we were about to run out of hazard cards. Because of a couple lucky choices during the final round we were able to accomplish our goal and successfully complete chapter one.
It turned out to be a nail bitter and we loved it!
The components that players will use during the game are all great. The cards are heavy duty and the cardboard is thick. My one complaint is the divider pieces that are used to keep the decks and adventures separated do not stay in place. The way they fit in the box allows them to slide around. Because of this, it makes it hard to store the game vertically.
But this is a very minor complaint as I bet most people store their games horizontally. I really don’t think it is a big deal and I will just store my copy horizontally.
This was a bit of a hang up for me. I totally overlooked the game because of the cover art. It is not my style. I still do not care for it. It is not bad, just not my thing.
Once I did get into the game, I found that the art is a bit more stylized. I have not gone through everything as there are still plenty of cards that I have not unlocked yet, but it seems like the art is cohesive and represents the theme. Once you get playing, it does a great job of sucking you in and making you feel like you are there stuck on that island.
What makes Adventure Island so much fun is the unknown. At first it is very intimidating and can seem daunting, but the game does a stellar job at opening up and allowing the players to know what needs to be accomplished to complete the chapter successfully. The sense of the unknown becomes the adventure. You become those stranded survivors because you are living in the moment just like they would be.
I am also a big fan of cooperative games. I like to work together to make it through games. Sometimes dominant players can take over a co-op game, but Adventure Island may be a bit different. It doesn’t seem like it can be dominated by a single voice. It seems much more balanced to allow all players to be involved.
The recommended age range for Adventure Island is 10+. That is a very agreeable recommendation. There is some hefty decision making that happens in this game and that level of toughness increases as the game progresses. If a kid is comfortable making tough choices and doesn’t get to broken up when the team loses, then I don’t think there should be any issues for younger players.
I have not completed the full game, but it does get challenging very quickly. I don’t think I would play this with people new to gaming. You might have to do a lot of coaching and that gets old for everyone. I would stick to gamers who have experience with co-op games and games that tend to the heavier side of the scale.
Adventure Island is a real treasure. Players get to live through the experience of the characters because of the way the game is set up. It may seem overwhelming at first, but the game does not lead you astray. It quickly becomes a very fun experience because you do start to explore and discover the unknown. You have the chance to take part in the story as an active participant. All of this makes for a very fun game night.
If co-op is your thing or if you like the story aspect, I would recommend giving Adventure Island a try. It is very challenging, but that just means when you beat a chapter it is even more meaningful. Plus, the way the game is setup. you can play it over and over and experience it with new friends. So please don’t overlook Adventure Island like I almost did.
Ben started playing Magic The Gathering in 1994. Over the years he developed a new appreciation for table top gaming after wanting to find a way to spend more time with his kids. He now has a serious board game addiction. When he is not gaming he makes money by doing product development and marketing for a guitar company.