Wales Interactive are back again with another FMV game, and who can blame them? When you’re good at something you should play to your strengths. This time we’re guiding an estranged father searching for his daughter who’s been kidnapped by a mysterious cult, known to operate out of The Isle Tide Hotel. Your job is to help our hero infiltrate the building, discover where his daughter is being kept, and get her out, just don’t expect it to be too easy. Coming from the masters of interactive films you’re sure to be treated to an experience like no other, with branching paths to personalise the story, unique characters with oodles of dialogue, and many hidden things to discover as you explore the hotel and characters that inhabit it. Just make sure you don’t get sucked into the machinations of the Verse and their rituals and decide that sacrifice is the right option…
We’re used to Wales Interactive’s titles by now, and the recent Who Pressed Mute On Uncle Marcus? and Mia And The Dragon Princess have been highlights of the FMV game genre. Slickly written and put together to encourage replays in order to discover alternate events, endings and secrets, they’re a far cry from the birth of the genre in the early 1990s. The Isle Tide Hotel then is a slight departure from the tone of the previous two games – where those were slightly tongue in cheek, reasonably fast paced, and certainly over the top at times, this is more considered and more than a touch darker. You’re on a mission to rescue Eleanor Malone from the clutches of the cult as their leader Dr. Aniston looks at using the teenager for nefarious purposes, and there’s little in the way of help outside your wits, and maybe another investigator called Price who’s lurking around. The trouble is you’ve no idea what the cult wants with Eleanor, what they’re doing, and why they’re holed up in the hotel talking about terms, tides and swells. It’ll take a lot of searching and questioning the guests to get any clues, and even with a better idea of what’s going on it’s entirely possible to screw it all up. At least you can run through it again easily enough given the relatively short runtime of between 1 and 2 hours.
For the controls, The Isle Tide Hotel is much like the other games – you watch the scene play out and when it ends there are options to investigate the environment or talk to the bystanders. Depending on how you enter the hotel and whether you’re accepted by the cult drastically alters your freedom of movement, and (you discover with subsequent attempts) severely limits your understanding of the nuanced relationships between the members; as well as simply figuring out what on Earth is happening. Initially I got into a bit of bother with the receptionist and that sent me off on track where I never had enough time to get through all the options given to me, very much like I was reacting on the hoof to a situation I had no clue about, and ended up blundering my way through to a conclusion. Going again I was able to find a couple of other ways to gain access and in one I effectively joined the cult and ended up with pretty much all the time I wanted to poke around and chat with the residents. Whichever routes are chosen though are backed up with documents and pertinent information that are easily referenced in a Directory, meaning alternate playthroughs come with that material to arm you up front.
Key to the engagement of the game are the characters themselves and credit goes here to the work done by the whole supporting cast and film crew. There’s a huge amount of work the actors have to do to not only play the correct roles, but the crew to also plan and create motion and dialogue for every potential option you might pick. It’s not simply a repeated movement, in the majority of cases it looks like a unique piece of acting captured. Clearly our hero is who you see most of all, and the chosen pose for linking clips together is him standing with his hands on his hips, which in fairness looks a bit odd, yet it does work very well. I mentioned earlier it seemed more considered and that’s down to the pacing. It’s not as quick as some of the other FMV games I’ve played, and until you can skip scenes you’ve viewed before it can feel like it drags. It’s especially apparent when you’ve a timed reaction to give in dialogue selection and then the main player pauses or waits before responding. However, the more you play the more it makes sense that there’s the opportunity to reflect and digest what’s going on as The Isle Tide Hotel feels much more like a detective mystery where you have to keep track of clues and evidence for use later.
With an intriguing story that you might clock early on, or you might not, The Isle Tide Hotel delivers on its promise of a strange cult operating out of a slightly ethereal premises. You might have to be in the right mood to spend a lot of time with it (I’d not recommend playing if you’re not going to pay attention), but when it grabs you it really sinks its hooks in. I’ve spent a fair amount of time pondering the events and how I could approach things differently, wondering what I’d have to do to investigate some of the other mysteries on display – it comes with side quests! For me though, the point I realised how well Wales Interactive had done was when the people in the room with me stopped what they were doing and started getting into it; then later asking what else had happened and whether their own theories were correct. If a passive participant gets engrossed to that degree then you know the game is doing something right. To find out what they were gripped by you’ll have to book a stay for yourself.
A PS5 review copy of The Isle Tide Hotel was provided by Wales Interactive’s PR team, and the game is today (12th September) on iOS, Android, PC, PlayStation, Switch and Xbox for around £15.
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