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.