Published on May 20th, 2015 | by Dembonez190
Review: Castaway Paradise
Developer: Stolen Couch
Publisher: Stolen Couch
System: Browser, Mac, PC, iOS, Android
Release Date: May 4, 2015
Washing up on the shore to join other life simulation games is Castaway Paradise, a charming game that uses the same addicting formula that other life simulators use to keep you hooked and wanting more. The fact that it is a combination of some of our favorite games makes it both new and familiar at the same time.
The main menu of the game is as simple as they come. It is where you are first introduced to the quirky but simplistic art style of the game in a peaceful menu with no music or sound effects. If you already have a game, which saves automatically, saved onto your computer or mobile device, you will be asked if you would like to continue a saved game or begin a new file. You can store up to three save files.
The other menus in the game consist of future events and catalogs that contain all of your stored items that you pay immediately using gems or pearls, the game’s currency. This is a unique feature that makes obtaining what you need super easy! While there are shops and stalls on the island, they may not have what you need right away. As you complete villager chores and level up, you will unlock new items for your catalog that you can buy whenever you have the funds, and they immediately appear in your inventory after doing so. It is easily one of the best features of the game, especially in later stages when you have money to burn.
Backtracking a little, unlike other life simulators, this one has a story element to it as well. You are immediately greeted by Mayor Viktoria, a pig villager in town. She describes the island’s current state and gives you a reason for wanting to make it look beautiful. The story is short and sweet, but it adds motive to the game’s otherwise “sandbox” motif. Not only does it set the base for the game, but it gives reasons for why everything looks the way it does so early on. From there, of course, the game becomes your own as you meet with other of the island’s villagers and complete tasks for them in order to earn gems or pearls and level up. The map makes finding the islanders VERY easy as when you zoom out, the map shows you their exact locations and lets you know if you have a quest waiting for them or if you have completed one.
Stolen Couch, the developers of this game, have compared the style to both Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon, two widely well-known simulation titles. Many of the island’s activities include: growing crops, donating to a museum, following the stock market, and talking to animal villagers, among other things. These are all elements that have been featured in the two games to which the developers compare their own. All of these elements that make them fun add to Castaway Paradise as well. When games take others’ models, it could feel unoriginal or stale, but going about these tasks feel different enough to where Castaway Paradise can stand on its own.
Fishing, shell collecting, and bug catching are the most interactive parts of the game. Everything you collect is compared to other players online. Size and beauty are two traits used to rank you among other fishermen, collectors, and bug enthusiasts. This is a cool feature that adds a sense of community and competition to a single-player full self-driven game.
If purchased from Steam, Castaway Paradise does not involve micro transactions, which means you earn money and unlockables by completing tasks rather than having to pay for them out of pocket. Still, there is a bit of waiting, though it does not take away from the experience at all. Every time you plant a crop, construct an important landmark in town, or even plant a flower you have to wait before you can interact with it again. Some things take a good bit longer than others, but you luckily do not have to wait a full day for something like a tree to sprout. You are also given a set time so that you will know in advance when something should be completed.
Many of these are worthwhile, however, because some of them expand the island and allow you reach areas that were inaccessible in the beginning. The island is rather small at first, but you will notice immediately that there are sections across sections of the river that you simply cannot reach. After ranking up and gathering puzzle pieces from completing tasks, bridges can be built to allow access to these otherwise blocked off areas. These new areas add to the replay factor as you discover new places to go.
Once you’ve completed enough tasks in the Steam version, you will rank up to VIP status. What this does is it not only gives you a discount in Samir’s shop, but the stamina for tools that you use will no longer exist. Stamina is another instance where you have to wait in order to use one of your main tools again. With this out of the picture, sprucing up the town’s appearance will take even less time and effort which makes VIP status another important goal to reach as if the VIP unlockables weren’t enough.
Since the premise of the game is to make the island beautiful, there is something in the catalog that may remind you of Public Works projects in Animal Crossing: New Leaf; however, in Castaway Paradise, you have more free reign over what is placed in your town and where. These items can be placed almost anywhere to enhance your town’s beauty, and there appears to be no set limit to how many can be placed around town. These objects are easy to move and rotate, even after they have been placed for awhile and help make the island truly your own.
As charming as Castaway Paradise is, there are a couple of minor things holding it back. One is the music. As good as it is at first, hearing the same tune non-stop for the entire duration of your playtime could become stale and a little grating. The music is the same all throughout the day and does not change when entering the shop, Town Hall, etc. The music is also the only thing you will hear besides sound effects coming from making selections in the menus or using items. It’s also upbeat and somewhat loud which, again, isn’t so bad in the beginning, but with nothing else going on, it may need to be turned down or off outright in the Options menu.
Another minor hiccup is navigating around objects and plants that are close together. This is something that has a small learning curve. Walking around them is fine, but if a stump and a tree sprout are positioned without one block of each other, it takes a little extra adjustment to ensure you use the correct tool or the correct object. Otherwise, you could end up uprooting a sprout when you wanted to uproot the stump. In the beginning phase of the game, there are many things that need to be cleaned up and grown to improve the island. Seeing as pointing and clicking is quite useful in Castaway Paradise, it could be made a tad easier to point and click on chores that need to be done when objects are in close proximity. On the plus side, tools are easily accessible and are sometimes automatically drawn depending on the task at hand.
At the end of the day, Castaway Paradise is miles better than your standard free-to-play game. There is SO much to do on the island, and just when you think you are finished with one area, another one opens up to you! The combination of Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon is an immediate draw, but the unique art style and interactions allow Castaway Paradise to stand alone among the ranks of the games it emulates.
+ Inventory, catalog, and map menus are easy to navigate
+ Potential to expand both in-game and through updates
+ Feels both fresh and familiar at the same time
– Music is well-composed but highly repetitive
– Some point-and-click aspects could be improved
Final Score: 4 out of 5