Sunday, February 25

Review: Radiation Island [Nintendo Switch eShop]

While the survival genre has been around for quite awhile now, and tends to be very popular, to be honest it generally has never had much appeal for me. Whether too bogged down by an abundance of crafting menus and needs, resource scarcity, or too slow a progression curve I just never have seen the appeal. On the Switch there are a few options in the vein of Minecraft but Radiation Island is more of a purist experience, more focused on combat and lacking in the creative components. Is it worth a look? Surprisingly, even as a non-genre fan I’d say yes.

In a scenario that isn’t terribly original but obviously works you’ll find yourself on the shore of a mysterious island, generally starting out your adventure with nothing. A quick scan of the beach and going through a nearby abandoned building will get you started with some materials and with some in-game prompts you’ll learn how to begin on the road to success through crafting. A helpful journal essentially prompts you with things you want to accomplish and once you make something new the game does a pretty good job of filling you in on how to use it. You’ll want to spend quite a bit of time in the vicinity of that opening space, at least being sure to return there around nightfall until you’ve amassed clothes, some varied weaponry, and plenty of food because the next phase is much more difficult.

It isn’t enough to merely exist, you’ll want to explore and learn more about the island you’re on and, of course, how to get off of it. That’s a bit of a taller order and if you’re not careful in your exploration it can quickly get downright lethal. While early weapons and gear will help you deal with a random wolf or even a regular zombie (did I not mention there are zombies?!?!? Yeah, and some crazy lethal ones too!) you’re going to have to spend some time upgrading (or lucking into finding) better tools for chopping down trees and mining and then refining various materials so you can stock up on essentials like arrows or even bullets. Always be sure, before going into a new area or building, to check your supply of ammunition. While you can get out of a pinch with your melee weapon of choice when there are multiple enemies, or a particularly tough one, you’re going to want to keep everything at a distance to avoid getting hit or, worse, infected. The circle of life on Radiation Island can be cruel if you’re not careful.

Keeping in mind that the game has a very budget-friendly price the somewhat simplistic graphics and overall presentation I’m generally willing to give a pass. They’re adequate, they generally perform well, and while quirky you get the hang of things pretty quickly and easily. While the in-game help tries to get you rolling there are some topics and specifics it isn’t so great at conveying so, though a bit tedious, it is a good idea to go to the details option for any new material you pick up so you can be sure to get a handle on what can be done with it. Sometimes crafted items can have surprising components to them so always assume you want and need to have everything for some odd reason and use things like crates to your advantage to store crafting materials you may not need until later. Certainly combat is a bit on the primitive side but then again it works reasonably well, the aim assist is appreciated when things get a bit hectic, and while the combat is part of the game it is also a secondary concern to crafting and exploration.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how engaging Radiation Island is, especially as someone who typically doesn’t find the genre interesting. It seems to have a very accessible and friendly crafting system, isn’t too hard or easy, and allows you to take your own pace whether that’s suicidally aggressive or simply taking your time. If you’re not familiar with the genre or are a fan who is willing to perhaps pull back on your expectations Radiation Island is worth the trip.

Score: 8

  • Not overly difficult until you move out of the opening zone
  • A fair number of lethal surprises await
  • For the price the amount of space to explore is surprising

  • The look and feel, overall, is a bit unrefined
  • Though the in-game guides try to be helpful some game systems can be a struggle to understand