The Peculiar Charms of a Dead Island - shootist2600 Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Peculiar Charms of a Dead Island

Some video games are so fun to play that their technical glitches become less glaring or even part of the overall enjoyment. Techland's Dead Island series includes such games, and Riptide is no exception. Indeed, the otherwise impressive presentation and eminently enjoyable gameplay remind me of Reality Pump's Two Worlds 2.

Two Worlds 2 also benefitted from an entertaining sense of humor and amusing glitches whether bones suspended in the air, broken cliffsides or trailing ghost images. While Riptide could benefit from a more wry perspective, some glitches do make me laugh. Of course I'm biased, but so far the flaws detract less from the game than add a sometimes humorous element.

One feature that excited me was a cave (yes, I'm easy to please). I don't recall any caves or similar landmarks in the previous game, so the opportunity for some RPG-friendly, dungeon-like crawling thrilled me. This named cave required loading prior to entering, and did not disappoint, at least where enemies are concerned.

It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: This zombie apocalypse is one bloody game scenario. Luckily for me, my preorder bonus included a special weapon called the BBQ Blade. It proved effective at lopping off the arms of the powerful thug zombie before putting him out of commission (above, top).

My strategy is to draw zombies away from crowds to help even the odds, but sometimes I get more than I bargain for. That leads to some spamming of the attack button, though you have to watch your stamina meter and health bar (thankfully health packs aren't rare). I managed to survive by the skin of my trusted BBQ Blade (above, bottom).

As I pointed out in my previous blog, collision detection is one of the more common design flaws. If it wasn't, this six-armed monstrosity (above) would have been quite a sight to behold in action! However, as it is a problem, don't be surprised to see zombies disappear into walls, equipment or other parts of the environment.

The trend today seems to be homicidal island cults to judge by Riptide (above), Tomb Raider or Far Cry 3, at least. When I first came across this (and signs do appear elsewhere as well) it definitely felt familiar. What happened to just having nasty wild animals or fantastic beasts making caves their home? Still, this cave was well designed.

Riptide, like its predecessor, is one of those few games that sports some impressive detail in its environmental design. Yes, the detail up close can be inconsistent, but overall the islands in this archipelago are beautifully conceived. Like Banoi in the first game, Palanai is a believable tropical paradise with realistic topography, dwellings and offices.

I've read that the map can be a poor tool, but in this case (above) it demonstrates the perpetual open world that has become a hallmark of the series. Few areas, especially outdoors, require loading and one can travel to most areas on the map. I ended up traveling around the peninsula to explore this river canyon.

Dead Island games have a variety of characters to interact with and no two are alike. Though zombies are another matter, but they're just fodder for your arsenal so what does it matter? That said, it might be more compelling if each were different enough to sport names instead of labels.

Imagine if some of the materials you find allude to certain individuals or families and then you were to come across them as undead versions of themselves? Depending on the materials you found, would it make you hesitate to kill them (assuming you remember)? Just an idea ...

The inventory menu is the same as in the original game, showing each item and its attributes. Another hallmark of this franchise is the huge arsenal of existing and customizable weapons obtained through loot grinding and quest completion. It's so integral to the experience I nearly blew my top when I lost everything early, though it was by design.

I really do feel like a tourist when exploring Dead Island isles. The beauty of the art design and the realism of the habitats (natural and artificial) establish a convincing sense of place to anchor the action. Indeed the variety in each scene, the contextual materials, the color palette, etc. all combine to create a uniquely immersive world.

Allow me to geek out like in my past Riptide blog about the detailed textures. It can be inconsistent but often shows impressive craftsmanship as in the (above) tree bark, wood post or even rope. Characters are less defined, especially in cut scenes, but nonetheless can be compelling in their own right and, mostly, distinctive.

By far the most entertaining glitch thus far has been these wayward zombies (if that's not redundant). They wandered this small area without attacking, and even my comrades were oblivious to their threat. It offered a rare, if weird, example of what life would be like if we put aside our differences and chose to live in harmony.

What happened was that I had an objective behind my companions and sprinted past the undead horde that materialized in between. When I met my objective, it triggered a cut scene despite the enemies on screen. After the cut scene, I found these few stragglers not only bereft of their friends but seemingly of a will to live, er, die, um, whatever.


The first video (above) shows how both zombies and humans ignore each other. Though I didn't get footage of them literally running circles around my comrades, they do lurch and lunge menacingly at them while their prey try to engage me in a discussion. It's ironic that one character is responsible for upgrading camp defenses. Slacker!


The second video (above) shows my character tiring of the useless undead in our midst, whacking the passive zombies repeatedly until they're put out of their -- and our -- misery. Note the glitch within the glitch, where one downed zombie levitates off the ground and flips right side up in order to stand. That is one wicked move!

Finally, taking this show out on the road again, I was walking beneath a clear blue sky on a sunny day when in a split second the sky turned dark and a downpour dumped on me from on high (above). It was a surreal moment in a string of peculiar scenarios but ones that proved entertaining nonetheless.

Of course, like any other game, I'd rather not have to experience any glitches in a game, but at least to this point those I have encountered are of a more amusing kind than might otherwise happen. No doubt the fun I'm having with the game colors my impression of them. Good thing, then, that I'm enjoying my stay on Palanai.

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