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Game Guys review: Nanda's Island

8:59 PM, Apr 26, 2011   |    comments
  • "Nanda's Island", a Nintendo DS game from MumboJumbo.
  • "Nanda's Island", a Nintendo DS game from MumboJumbo.
  • "Nanda's Island", a Nintendo DS game from MumboJumbo.
    
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This is one game that should have been left to die in the desert.

Welcome to Nanda's Island! It's the latest puzzle game entry from Mumbo Jumbo, but restoring this desert island is about as much fun as walking across hot concrete barefoot.

The Panda Bear Nanda (which is Panda with a N) discovers that his home island is deserted.

Everything is dead and everyone is gone. Now the young shaman sets out armed with a newly learned rain dance to try and restore the island.

From the outset this game is plauged with problems. It also features some fuzzy math from packaging, to instruction booklet. The back package says "more than 40 levels to solve!" The booklet, says there are 50. The game follows the booklet, with 50 puzzles scattered across a map. So why they say 40 on the package is beyond me. It's right there are 'more than 40 levels.' Why don't you just say 50?

To off we set on our adventure to solve at least 40 and maybe ten more physics based puzzles.

Each level starts with a target flower. The goal is to get enough water to the target flower to make it blossom. Nanda dances up a single rain cloud, and you draw lines with your magic ink pen to get the water to the flower.

You have limited water, and limited ink to complete each puzzle. There is no specific way to solve each level. As long as you get water from cloud to plant you win. There are other plants which you can use to help you over come obstacle's, including a plant that produces more water, which you can't skip since the cloud rarely produces enough water to complete the level. The fountain plant spit water up like a fountain, which you can use to get over stones or holes.

This game suffers from the outset because of the way it is all set up.

You have ten seconds at the start of each level to try and figure out how you are going to solve the puzzle. That's a huge issue because you can't even see the level until the count down starts. The top screen on the DS shows the whole map, but it's really small. The bottom screen shows just a small part of it. You can miss important water producing flowers if you don't scan the map first or spot them on the tiny top screen.

There were times I led the water successfully to the target plant or a fountain plant only to realize that I didn't have enough water to continue. Other times I lost track of time and lost half of my rain falling straight down instead of getting a line in place to lead it to the right target.

So from the start of each level you are already going to be working on almost a trial and error basis. It's not a fun way to start a game. Even after you figure out how to beat a level, your going to to be doing even more re-starting and because you have no idea how the water is going to act.

For example, you set it up so a cascade of water will flow down hill to the target flower. However one tiny crevasse in the rocks causes a log jam and stops the flow. The rock surface looked smooth but it wasn't. There is no way to get the water back up and you will need to re-start.

The next time, you draw what you think is a complete line connecting a higher platform to a lower one. But.. there is a tiny hole at the start of your line. Half the water goes down the drain - and you're hitting restart again.

You are constantly fighting with the controls to draw a smooth complete line to get the water to flow with out bunching up.

The nice part is that there is double the amount of water needed to beat each level so you do get some reprieve in letting some water get lost. If you get all the water to the target plant you get a double bloom, which nets you extra points.

While having more water then you need seems like it would make things easier, it really turned out to be another huge game flaw. Early on, I had enough water to get the plant to bloom and pass the stage. But I still had some drops of water stuck around the level. So the level didn't end. So I started drawing randomly and even tilting my DS hoping to get the water going. Thinking since the game didn't end the stage, maybe I could find someway to get that water flowing again. The level didn't stop so I kept trying, and trying. I went back to the instruction manual to find out what was going on. No advice. So eventually I hit pause and I found out if you pause then quit the stage with the plant in bloom, you advance. You have to quit the current level to get to the next one. Something must have gotten lost in translation.

The bad control is just the first of many reasons why you won't want to visit Nanda's Island.

Now, lets talk about the raindrops. They are square blue-colored pixels and they are the least rain-like things I have ever seen. The worst part is compared to the animated 3D panda Nanda and the painted backgrounds, they look even worse.

So, bad controls and it looks cheap.

The game features two modes - Puzzle and Arcade. They are exactly the same levels except that in Arcade you have only three lives. Your challenged to see how many levels you can clear before you run out of lives. This is a great concept, except if you have never played the stages you have no idea how to beat them. Trial plus error plus limited lives equals a losing equation.

It is nice to get the option of two modes, but I couldn't really see anyone playing one over the other. They are literally the same except puzzle mode has a map in between stages, and arcade limits your lives.

The sound is what you would expect it a decent sound loop of music, but since the audio has no impact on the game I just turned it down and put something else on.

This puzzle game is another entry in an already crowded market and it fails to stand out. Unlike my previous review of MumboJumbo's Tin Can Escape, which is a simple working puzzle game, this game is flawed from the get go and keeps the player from getting any enjoyment out of it. This is one island that you won't want to bring back from the dead.

Final Game Guys grade: F

- Review written by Trevor Tamsen.

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