Father’s Island Review

From Homegrown Games, Father’s Island has been described as a B-movie style, visual novel that blends elements of mystery, tension, horror, and atmosphere. The game aims to immerse players in a remote and deserted location, who most of its inhabitants have succumb to a devastating consequence of isolation. The game does manage to bring a strong sense of immersion in the cases of its setting, colour palette and atmosphere. However, the end result feels excruciatingly messy, hilariously written, and misses the mark on pretty much all other aspects.

You play as John Richards who has recently been released from prison under false charges. After his release he travels to his home island, which was the place in which he grew up in for the first ten years of his life. Upon arriving however, the islands human inhabitants have vanished. Isolated on the island, in the wake of a devastating phenomenon, John must traverse the island, in search of the person who framed him and to understand the reasoning behind their deceit.

The gameplay revolves around exploration. As more of the island is uncovered, players come across small houses, wooden cabins, and electricity centres. Some of these houses hold important notes which flesh out the experiences of other characters and the world and John will often react with inner monologues. Despite these ambitions however, the exploration never feels fully developed. In every house, there are very few objects to interact with and the individual buildings are too small and cramped in comparison to the long and empty stretches of land the player has to traverse. As a result, the exploration and the gameplay itself quickly become tedious. The puzzles in the game are also very poorly executed since they only involve finding a key for a gate or a door. As a result, these puzzles further add to the tedium of the gameplay.

Perhaps the most confusing use of explaining the island’s past to the player is the inclusion of a live actor, who interrupts the game at various locations, to explain the functionality of a building, or the results of a horrendous incident. While this technique does conjure some sense of intensity and strangeness, it quickly becomes hilarious due to the over-the-top performance of the actor, and how out of place he is in comparison with the graphical representation of the game.

The score mainly consists of calm piano music used to further solidify the sense of isolation for players. Fir the most part it works, but as the game drags on it can become tiresome. As a huge technical flaw, the music very often loops noticeably, cuts unnaturally to other scores, or outright stops altogether. This causes some serious breaks in immersion and could take you almost completely out of the game. Inaccurate song choices could also occur, as you enter buildings. The score begins to change to a more intense theme, as if you are about to be attack. This direction in music overall makes the game’s soundtrack extremely inconsistent and damages a somewhat interesting island to explore.

What is easily the game’s most noticeable flaw is the appalling state of its technical performance. When you first load the game you are always greeted to a loading screen that takes about three minutes to install the game. The screen would also give a notice from the development team, explaining the reason behind the load times, along with some odd spelling mistakes. When the game finally loads, players are then greeted to a huge level of technical flaws that almost completely halt the game in its tracks. While the frame rate isn’t exactly poor, the vegetation moves very statically and it becomes immediately distracting. The water from the ocean and ponds that appears throughout the game are almost completely transparent and make objects like rocks and the boat look like they are floating on air. The depth of field causes mountains and vegetation to disappear from a very short distance.

What is the most hilarious and confusing set of issues though, is the limitation of movement for the player. At the expense of super-human speed, the player’s character doesn’t seem to have any knowledge of how to climb ladders. He doesn’t even try to swim, and struggles to walk up stairs and through doors, requiring the player to jump through them instead of simply walking, and the jumps themselves are a feeble hop, reminiscent of the single rabbit on the whole island. The few individual animals on the island have horrendous animations that don’t come close to resembling how they move in real life. The quality of the audio for the main voice actor is terrible as it’s done through a low-frequency and makes the actor sound less as if he is not actually there. It should also be said that the voice actor for John is also not very inspiring. His bland and often thuggish tone makes it difficult to take his character seriously, especially when much of his dialogue comes off as laughable or clichéd.

Father’s island feels unfinished. It has a noticeable ambition for storytelling and an atmospheric setting, but the game unfortunately misses the mark on almost every aspect. The writing is laughably poor, the technical issues are severe, and the experience overall shallow and repetitive. Father’s island is an example of how not to do exploration in games, and it’s sad to see some potentially great ideas be wasted on a game where so little effort has been spent.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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