Friday, 2 September 2011

Isle of the Dead (MS-DOS) - Guest Post

From Rainmaker Software, the precursor to Nerves of Steel.

Yes, Nerves of Steel is the game they made when they knew what they were doing.

As always, FPS Friday readers are advised that this post contains disturbing scenes of violence, gore and MS-DOS graphics.


Laughing title screens is scary.

A plane crash! I'm a castaway! The music's terrible out here! Oh no!

Well, I don't know anything about my character so it's possible I could just live here on this island. Time to explore!

I faced the plane and got sucked inside. It's now a Myst-like adventure game! Am I playing this on the wrong day?

Uh oh... everybody's dead. From the looks of the blood, they died pretty recently. Nothing of interest.

Using your adventure game instincts, can you identify the absolutely necessary item on this screen?

It's the machete behind the seat on the left. Nope, it's not part of the plane as I first thought.

My character is completely unaffected by the sight of his colleagues mutilated corpses. Nothing of interest.

Can you identify the absolutely necessary item on this screen?

It's the phrasebook on the man in the lower left corner of the screen. Gotta click every pixel to find these things, never know when you might need 'everything'.

Things aren't any better in the cockpit.

There's a flare gun with a single shot which I can take and a compass which I can't. We're done in the plane.

Back in the real world, I can arm myself with the machete. Swish, swosh! It doesn't actually make a noise!

What's that splat in front of me? It's either some debris, an extinguished campfire, or a disguised hole in the ground. I'll try picking it up... there's loads of controls all over the keyboard... okay... it's a jacket!

After eating a healthy coconut to bring my health to max, I check the items I've found so far. Inside the jacket were a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.

I try using the flare gun, but no body noticed. What to do now!

I really hope I didn't need that later on. Say, for the final puzzle.

In these static images, the game does a respectable impression of water stretching off into the distance. Only in motion is it absolutely obvious that the both the water and the trees are vertical walls. The whole game is like a cheap film set.

This starting area is a large L shape with no exits. I span around the edge pressing USE on everything trying to find the open door, then I tried swinging the machete at every tile of wall. Can you see that different wall tile on the right? I can cut that to make a hole to the next area! Now try picking that out of a distant, sparkling glitchy wall on a 320 x 200 screen.

Or picking out something like this in a mass of identical L-shaped areas. The map only shows the shape of the area you're in, with no landmarks or indications of how the current area connects to any others. Don't get lost now!

It's small cave containing crates of ammo and an old rifle! Score!


"Nya ha ha ha ha ha ha."

Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Science Guy. I'll get you next time.

Wait, who the hell are you? I never met you! I don't know you! Could he have programmed the game?

Back at the very start of the game! Aaaaaaargh!

Making sure to avoid the cave with the booby-trapped rifle in, I find myself ambushed by this bloody monster man carrying his own severed arm!

Stand back, fiend! I've got a blade!

Hahaha! From the look of these daft bloody monsters, I think I can safely say this game isn't supposed to be serious. Not exactly what the box would have you believe. Again. (Mobygames link)

I'm laughing too hard to even try to dodge 'em. It's all I can do to hold fire and keep steady.

The abominations on this island evolved their appearance to paralyse potential predators with the giggles.

BATS! Bats are never a laughing matter.

Now this is a serious survival horror game.

I'd like to know why the hell everything I attack in these FPS Friday games EXPLODES.

Between the Johnny Bravos, the skull monsters and the armies of bats. It's not looking good. I wish I had a gun.

Yeeearrrghh, I'm dead!

Hey! I did not have a shotgun! The damn shotgun blew me up when I tried to take it!

(This animation inexplicably has a slightly different interface to the actual adventure game interface.)

"Nya ha ha ha ha ha ha."

Shut it.

Back to the start I go! Whatever I did last time, it was wrong.

It was probably something like stumbling straight into enemies WITHOUT A GUN.

"Daddy!" CHOMP.

Hmm... if my calculations are correct, these L-shaped coastal areas must end eventually. They'll either loop around to the back of the plane (I can't walk past the plane in the starting area), or lead to another exciting area. Luckily, the enemies can't travel between areas and the coast is always safe.

Yes! It's the back of the plane! And a gun!

Now we are talking.

Shoot all the monsters with the shotgun, enter the large enclosure to the right. This is what progress looks like.

Hooohhhkay. This presents a problem. I'll just use the...

Hold it! Where'd my bloody phrase book go?

That's great. I forgot to pick it up on this life. Back to the plane!

Well, here I am back at the plane. A little worse for wear because the enemies respawn when you return to previous areas.

Hey, the plane's not on fire any more. And I can't enter it. To enter doors, usually I just stand in front of them and face them and I automatically get sucked into them. The plane isn't working! But that's where the phrase book is! Damn it!

I'm going to have to load a save before I talked to those guys in the enclosure. Make a note, folks. If you talk to those guys before you get the phrase book, you can't win the game.

What!? I haven't even got the gun yet on this save and already the plane's gone out and I can't enter it!

Can you only enter the plane once?!

Nope, the game isn't that stupid. Instead, the game is a completely different kind of stupid. Loading a save at any point causes the plane to go out and become inaccessible. You can make the game unwinnable by starting a new game and immediately saving then loading. Heaven knows what other effects loading might have. Reminds me of Rex Blade. Programming saving and loading must be really, really hard.

Phrase book in hand, I negotiate my way past the guards by informing them that if they don't let me pass, I'll blast 'em to pieces.

Okay, we're in the enclosure. There's lots of health items about and a dozen identical looking doors. Gotta try 'em all.

Oops. Sorry.


Hey there, friend.

The chief was behind the last door I tried. I didn't seem to be able to talk to him by clicking on him or using the phrasebook so I decided to offer him the cigarettes. He's fully voiced! Badly. In return for the cigarettes, I get the bolt cutters on the shelf. Alright. No idea what I need them for, but it's an item, so I'll accept.

And now I can't talk to him any more. I've got a feeling I've messed this up. I'll try this again by loading up a save before talking to the chief.

NO WAIT, I'll start again and fight my way back here without using save games at all. It's safer.

Okay, using the phrase book on his face lets me talk to him properly. The chief tells a story of how a mysterious white man came to their island and caused all the monsters to appear. One of the monsters even kidnapped the chief's daughter!

The player asks "... and I'm supposed to offer to save her?"


I'm supposed to be following an Oracle of some kind, but I can't see anything out here but monsters. I can't be bothered going into the caves again considering how likely the game is to screw up in some subtle but devastating way.

This isn't going to be very nice, is it?


That's not big and it's not clever.

Isle of the Dead is a game jam packed with features to prevent you from playing very far. If only all these games would be so merciful.


  1. I really should download this game so I can ridicule it also...

  2. I've noticed all the images in the old Mechaneko posts have disappeared.... can this be fixed? :(

    1. I was hoping it would've fixed itself by now to be honest.

      The pictures for his most popular articles were moved off Photobucket a while back to stop this from happening in the first place, but I guess I underestimated the internet's insatiable craving for mecha-neko content. The screenshots should be back in a day or two though, one way or the other.


Semi-Random Game Box