Nothing tastes as sweet as a well-rounded revenge ragout with treasure to follow - and that is top of the menu in this new adventure. You are out to do some severe sea-going damage to the unimaginatively named Captain Black. This pirate has caused you so much heartbreak in the recent past, the upshot of which is that you are stuck on a desert island.
The first section of the game serves an interesting purpose in that it goes nowhere near setting the tone for the rest of the game. Hints are flung at you like flowers to a prima ballerina. In fact "hint" is slightly misleading, unless you consider yelling "your flies are undone!" at the top of your voice when someone has their zip at half mast to be a subtle clue.
Once you are off the island however, the game moves up a gear. The trip from islet to ship, for example,contains a little animation in the small graphics box and the sea swirls mellowly from the speaker. If you have done everything you should have, the pirates will not notice as you come aboard and begin to explore.
On the top left of the screen is a panel which, at the outset of the game and at each enw stage, contains a small brown square with a tiny blue sphere in the middle. This, me hearties, is your map - and jolly handy it is too. Map making is always one of the more irritating parts of playing adventures and this little gem allows you to concentrate on looking, taking and killing things stone-cold dead... in a caring way of course.
Due to the fact that the plot is a little weak - all you really know from the scenario is that you have to get revenge and collect some treasure, no racing against clocks or being chased by ghouls - there is no real feeling of urgency to the game. This can work in your favour if you belnd in with the corsairs and only violently end people's lives when things are quiet.
In the top centre of the screen is Jonny Skull. Aside from the fact that he (or she... might be a woman) is rather nicely drawn, it is not really of that much use. It purpose in life is to allow you to point your mouse-sword at various areas around it labelled N, S, W and so on. Beause text is entered from the keyboard into the lower half of the screen, it becomes a pain to use the skulll and mouse-button for movement. It might have been of more use to see an expanded graphics window but never mind, Jonny Skull is OK.
So, the basic plan of action is to not give yourself away, carry out the occasional assassination, make a friend and prepare for a final confrontation with the despicable freebooting captain. Fine and dandy and er... that seems to be it.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
At last, at long last, an adventure with sound. The sea wishes and washes around and is your companion for most of the game. Every so often its relaxing swish is punctured by keys clanking, doors creaking open and a heartbeat or two. Death is greeted by the classic, doomy "ha ha ha ha" in a deep throaty voice. Turned to about quarter volume these sounds are pleasingly effective and serve to lock your concentration into the task. With no pimple rock soundtracks to break that concentration, the audio is an addition - thank goodness.
Graphically, The Island of Lost Hope is nicely formed. The occasional animated section crops up but for the most part what you get are static images in the window, top right of the screen. They are all cleanly-drawn and do not eat up time when they flick on and off as if appearing through Venetian blinds. The rest of the screen, including Jonny Skull the dead direction deliverer, is bright and clear. The mapping is fast and even if mixing brown with blue is considered tonal suicide in some quarters, my dear, it all works for me.
Well, put it this way - you might like to come back to it now and then when your joystick finger grows weary but, unless you are a true adventure freak, it lacks a suitably gripping plot to keep you staying up all hours.
It is not that it is boring - anything but - there just seems to be a lack of incentive, no real bite. There are witty elements now and again - the fact that the captain only communicates via his parrot - and this give soms flavour. But the puzzles tend to the obvious and the other pirates seem a tad, well, thick as two short walking-the-planks.
Happily, death does not nit you too illogically or from all angles unless you do something really dumb, like hacking at the captain with a coconut early on, you should be able to keep going. All in all a relaxing outing which is worth playing just to see how much more intelligen you are than the opposition.
Not guilty on any counts such as illogicality or super-easiness, The Island of Lost Hope is a well-rounded game which could do with a follow-up to really test your mettle. At no point during the game can you relax totally - there is always a chance of giving yourself away and the rat, for example, really does kick some ass until you conquer it.
The only weighty omission is a lack of plot to grip you.
The accompanying reading matter concentrates on the use of function keys and commands rather than setting you up with some sense of avenging yourself or even knowing where you should be going. As Dustin hoffman might pontificate, "It is real hard to relate your character, man". Generally, The Island of Lost Hope is eminently playable, not too far off the mark and capable of supplying a few thrills and brain teasers.