Have You Played… Isle Of The Dead?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Before Dead Island, there was Isle of the Dead.

Part Island of Doctor Moreau, part Zombie Holocaust, Isle of the Dead is one of the worst games I’ve ever played. In keeping with the theme of recent Have You Played entries, it’s another stop on my trip down FPS Memory Lane, and in this case we’re visiting the burning tire fire inside the skip right at the end of the lane.

If you didn’t live through the nineties, you may not realise just how many bad first-person shooters there were. Just as the popularity of platforming mascots on the big consoles may have been responsible for attempts to emulate their success on home computers – see Zool, Oscar, Chuck Rock, James Pond, Jazz Jackrabbit and the rest – the emergence of successful FPS games led to a flood of corridor shooters.

Isle of the Dead, as far as I remember, doesn’t get anything right. Thematically, its zombie experimentation on an island aesthetic falls apart almost immediately thanks to an uninteresting and unpleasant mish-mash of enemy types. Some look like holidaymakers, not a far cry from Dead Island’s swimwear-clad zombies, and others look like depictions of island natives plucked from a Boy’s Own Paper in the heady days of Empire (or from a World Wrestling Federation gimmick at the time of the game’s release, for that matter). Some have putrid green flesh, others have shining pink muscles. The treeline is a wall and, occasionally, your machete is a key.

There are point and click sections, though they’re so limited in number and interactivity that they’re inconsequential, and there are monstrous bats that look like they’ve been imported from a different game entirely. There are insta-death traps hidden within the point and click sections and it’s possible to use items in the wrong place, only to find yourself unable to advance later in the game without those same items.

Isle of the Dead is a reminder that the barrel has no bottom.


  1. HeavyStorm says:

    The nineties… Accordingly to Matrix, the apogee of our kind. (see above)

  2. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    I love the Dead, of course, was a completely different NSFW game

    • mejoff says:

      Why the everliving fuck was this a reply to that comment!?!?!?

  3. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    That skull zombie looks so chipper and happy to see you.

  4. MelsWhitePubes says:

    I had this game, and it really was bad. I remember a couple of things… first, the game began with a point and click segment to leave the crashed plane that had me stick for a while. Secondly, the “Quit Game” option had a very graphic and unskippable animation of your character blowing most of his head off with a shotgun.

    Terrible game, I think I played it less than an hour.

  5. Shakes999 says:

    Oh lord. Forgot about this game. Yeah, tricked my friends parents in to buying it. After the initial amusement wore off of the cool death scene in the first 5 minutes, over…..and over……and over, we realized the game sucked terribly. It was hard as hell and wasn’t very much fun.

    About to go find it cause now I’m interested again for sheer curiosity’s sake.

  6. Geewhizbatman says:

    Yes! This is one of those games that I remember vividly though I know I probably played it for less than a handful of hours. In part because it was far more graphic than I probably should have been dealing with at that age (I was born in ’88 and it was definitely pre 12 that I played it.) But eh, my folks didn’t much care about cartoon violence. Especially when I had already watched most of the living dead movies by that point and so how much worse could neon versions of it all be?

    I remember mostly loving the animation and art, but discovering that first person face shooting just wasn’t for me. Of course, I assumed at that time it was because I was just the worst at it, which may be the case, though it is gladdening to hear that it wasn’t exactly a forgotten masterpiece. I don’t think I even made it out of the initial area. The only FPS of the 90s I remember playing with consistency, before I switched fully to the strategy genre, was Chex Quest anyway xD

  7. dethtoll says:

    People who like to claim the 90s were the pinnacle of video games and that modern FPS games all suck need to get strapped to a chair and forced to play games like this and Operation Body Count.

    • Nick says:

      I think a lot of the best games made thus far were made in the 90s, thats not to say there weren’t an awful lot of utterly horrible games made in that 10 year period as well. Nor that there haven’t been some utter clasics made since. Its like movies.. there are a lot of absolute classics from the 90s (Goodfellas, JFK, Silence of The Lambs.. many more that I could mention but it would get boring) but then they also released Showgirls, Waterworld, BioDome, the first US Godzilla.. and.. the Phanton Menace.. and many, many more.

      Those horrible, disgusting crimes against cinema don’t mean the 90s wasn’t also a glorious decade of cinematic classics. Equally, Rise of the Robots doesn’t mean System Shock 1 and 2 aren’t some of the best games ever made.

      • El_Kabong says:

        How dare you?! Waterworld and Showgirls, both cinematic gold! Yes, the critics hated them both, but i wont hop on that train, too. ;)

      • LexW1 says:

        Er, actually isn’t that precisely what it means? There’s a difference between:

        “There were many excellent and seminal films made in the 1990s.”


        “The ’90s was a glorious decade of cinematic classics.”

        The latter is bollocks because of the “glorious decade” line, which implies it was at least, mostly good, above average compared to other decades, and so on. Which, film-wise, I think would be a hard case to make. I mean, even dozens of classics don’t make much odds if the vast majority of films are trash, where in other decades maybe only the majority of films were trash (instead of vast…).

        As someone who loves cinema, loved the ’90s (generally, well, I stopped loving them in about 1998, I think), I would definitely not call it a “glorious decade of cinematic classics”. More like an “interesting decade of cinematic experimentation whilst Hollywood actively damaged it’s brand and lowered cinema attendance with a nigh-relentless stream of mediocrities leavened only by the odd event movie”.

        Similarly, games-wise, looking at 1990s FPSes as a whole, compared to say, post-2010 FPS, the latter are far more consistently at least okay. I suspect the latter may even take more risks.

        What the 1990s did have though, which we don’t have as much any more, was more risk-taking “mid-budget” titles, like most of Looking Glass’ output and so on. But even there, Kickstarter and the like is starting to cause us to make up ground.

  8. Spacewalk says:

    That was back when I liked games just because they were first person-shooters. These days I’m much more discerning. Depth Dwellers, H.U.R.L., Corridor 7 (lie, even I thought that Corridor 7 was poo), Terminal Terror, Nerves Of Steel, Skaphander, In Pursuit of Greed, the list goes on and on.

    Isle Of the Dead was one of the worst but it did have lots of gore going for it. To a teenage mind this was the most awesome thing ever, it was even more gruesome than Doom. I can’t bring myself to play it these days and Youtube won’t even give me a compilation of the death scenes so I guess it’s time to finally delegate IOtD to the dumpster of time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Whenever I have cause to think about it, I’m surprised that In Pursuit of Greed didn’t capture the public’s attention more than it did.

      You can be a cyborg mercenary cow, what could be better than that?

  9. Nick says:

    Say what you will, Apogee published a huge amount of incredibly entertaining games. When I was a wee lad I had an Apogee shareware CD with a good 30 or so games on it and more often than not they were well made and fun. A few in particular I wish I could remember the names of cause I’d like to play he full things.

    I vaguely remember some sort of haunted mansion FPS shareware being released on the first PC Gamer cover disc I ever bought. It was a bit above Wolf 3d graphics, maybe Blake Stone level but pre Doom quality, wish I sill had the mag and CD, if only for nostalgia…

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  11. beverlybetty@ says:


  12. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I haven’t played this, but it looks bright, colourful and set in wide open areas, so probably already better than DOOM3.

  13. chris1479 says:

    “see Zool, Oscar, Chuck Rock, James Pond, Jazz Jackrabbit and the rest” don’t forget Professor Moriarti of Acorn 5000 fame.

    I much enjoyed my 14k internet and even managed to get a cd rom drive working on that old machine. In fact I still use it today, very quick bootup it has too, RiscOS.