The Dink Network

Mystery Island

Trouble, indeed. DDC goes boating A mysterious well on the mysterious island.
April 20th, 2023
Score : 6.9 fair
Peasant They/Them Australia
Mystery Island was included with the freeware release of Dink Smallwood that I first played in the year 2000. It's intended to be a sequel to the main game, but really has little in common with it in terms of storyline and gameplay. It opts for a different play style and adds some new and unique scripting techniques and engine features which make it very different to the game of knights and dragons we're accustomed to. For a better understanding of the design and development process, I highly recommend reading "The Making of Mystery Island" as it explains the planning process, involving writing all the scripts before designing the map. Unfortunately, this planning process didn't prevent a variety of flaws from ending up in the final product.

The game starts with the usual RTSoft sense of humour in the form of the punchable decorative dragons, but soon after goes straight downhill. Upon talking to the king and selecting the "wrong" option, you'll be blasted with a WAV file that sounds vaguely like a marimba playing a sequence in a minor key along with seeing a pop-up box that tells you that the game has ended. Anyone who is intent on playing this game to the end will soon become very well acquainted with this sound due to the many "trap" choices and dead-ends littered throughout.

Upon boarding the ship and beginning the adventure, the player will see one of the many 3D pre-rendered stills that are scattered throughout the game. They'll also hear one of the game's MIDIs which are all original compositions by Mitch Brink, tailored to the setting the player finds themselves in. The soundtrack and the new graphics almost manage to redeem Mystery Island by making it feel much more atmospheric and professional when compared to the average D-mod. Unfortunately many will have given up before they get to hear and see all of them due to the sheer frustration of the subsequent sections of gameplay.

On the ship, the player is forced into several different "arcade-style" sequences before they find themselves on the island. These sound like great fun, but they really only exist to annoy the player and draw out the game, as one's success in them is almost entirely random. When I first played, I assumed there was some sort of pattern or consistency to the "Cave of Terror", but then discovered much later on by reading the scripts that it was entirely random with a 50% chance of success, meaning one's choice is entirely irrelevant. The "puke" sequence is thankfully much more transparent in terms of what to do, but unfortunately in many cases just as random as your shipmates unhelpfully run to opposite corners of the deck, causing you to inexplicably lose when there are more than 9 active pukes. The shark sequence is the only minigame that involves skill but not very much of it, as one can usually just press "right" a few times to get to the end without much trouble. It also makes no sense that you'd go back to the Cave of Terror over and over again without some sort of explanation from the crew, and these sorts of oversights end up cheapening the experience.

The only redeeming part of this section is the hilarious shipmate banter, and I recommend all players talk to the crew as much as possible after every arcade sequence so as to disperse the monotony of the sea voyage somewhat. Unfortunately, there isn't very much of it and soon afterwards, you're dumped onto the island and must contend with one of the most notoriously irritating bits of Dink modding ever, namely the camera section.

It is commonly known that the camera destruction sequence is one of the most poorly regarded DMOD plot devices of all time, simply because at release many PCs couldn't handle it due to the Dink engine's timing being reliant on the speed of the user's CPU. As such, many people around the world collectively wasted thousands of hours attempting to traverse this shoddy bit of game design only to find out later that it was more or less impossible for them to get past it without either a cheat script or by buying a faster PC. Thankfully, if the player manages to destroy them all, they'll find the rest of the game to be rather straightforward for the most part, assuming they can figure out what they're supposed to be doing.

Despite the relative simplicity of the post-camera end-game section, there is very little assistance provided to the player in terms of figuring out what to do next. The girl who is supposed to assist you provides the occasional vague hint but is otherwise an unhelpful annoyance. There's also the possibility of softlocking if one accidentally kills the duck or attempts to fight the endless robots near the cliff, along with various other niggles such as being able to trigger the camera sequence after morphing into a duck. For the player to heal, they must find the obscure burping tree or hope the unusually strong enemies drop enough hearts. All of these little things add up and overshadow RTSoft's attempts to innovate and develop an alternate and fresh D-Mod style. Dink's commentary on the state of the various houses and his responses upon hitting things almost make up for this lack of effective story development but fall short, and leave the player with unanswered questions such as why there's a fountain in the middle of town which turns people into ducks.

It is also worth noting that from the moment you arrive on the island, the pre-rendered Bryce stills take a back seat and are nowhere to be seen until the very end. Notably absent from the credits list for Mystery Island is Dink's lead artist, Justin Martin, with the new robot sprites all having been modelled and animated by Greg "Pap" Smith with perhaps some help from Seth. Unfortunately, Pap's lack of artistic flair is evident upon encountering the cameras and robots, which are made from simple primitives such as cubes and spheres with lacklustre textures, and overall have the appearance of being composed by a 12-year-old following a beginner's tutorial. They also lack the black grid shadows of the original game's graphics and end up looking subtly out of place compared to everything else on the map. The stills provide a sense of atmosphere during the early game, which would have made for a nice contrast to these red polygons.

Much like the original game, Mystery Island starts off strongly but eventually runs out of steam, and relies on forcing the player to read the developer's mind in regard to numerous esotericisms in order to progress. If you can stomach the irritation involved in outdated yet common and accepted game design tropes from 1998, you will find a somewhat lacklustre adventure that occasionally redeems itself with superb pre-rendered Bryce graphics and well-composed music, interspersed with the usual RTSoft humour. At least the credits look cool.
April 30th, 2013
Score : 9.0 exceptional
A continuation to Dink's saga of hapless hackducking, by two of the creatores of Dink themselves! (Seth Robinson and Greg 'Pap' Smith)

Since Mystery Island is included with the freeware version of Dink, some assume it's the first dmod ever released. This isn't true, Mystery Island was released on July 1st 1998, and by that time several other dmods already existed.

The game combines elements of action, adventure, mystery, even cyberpunk! At a few points, it feels like a horror game, and the atmosphere is always tantalizing, thanks muchly to the awesome original soundtrack by Mitch Brink and plethora of new high-quality graphics.

The story of Mystery Island is interesting, if a little bit nonsensical at the end. You can tell the authors were just having fun and threw together a bunch of cool ideas, without worrying too much about explaining things or getting some point across. Worth noting is the humour, which is the same twisted wit that made the original game so brilliant.

The problem with Mystery Island is its length; the dmod only takes about an hour to complete. Especially with it marketed as part 2 to the original adventure, you'd expect much more. An hour or two at most simply isn't enough to get your fill of maritime adventure, killer robots and mating with ducks.
February 18th, 2010
Score : 8.5 good
Peasant He/Him
I Bring Tidings of Spam 
Rtsoft's sequel to the classic RPG, Dink Smallwood. This review and reviews after it will have a new section.
The story is that Dink Smallwood must travel to Tahmar to deliver a message. On the way there, he encounters many problems with puking, scary caves, and sharks. When he's almost there, a large storm casts him overboard and he arrives at Mystery Island. There he finds that the Island is quite deserted and overrun by evil robots. Your job is to find out what is happening at this island.
The new sounds for hitting the robots and the music for the island is great, and the music fits the mysteriousness of the Island. The only problem is that the music can get repetitive after awhile, and can lower the mood for the island.
Mapping and Scripting
The Mapping: Very nicely done, but like the original game, slightly empty. The upside to a lightly decorated map is seeing where you are, so I find that to be very convenient. Another upside to a lightly decorated map is the shortage of hardness errors. There were no hardness errors at all and the new graphic visuals for the map and the ship were nicely rendered 3D images.
The Scripting: Very nice and easy to progress. There were no errors, and everything ran as smooth as it did in the original game.
Finishing this game is very satisfying, but replaying this game isn't necessary unless you missed something in the story or missed a few items. It is highly satisfying, however, to play this game again for the opening mini-games on the ship, with all the humour.
Overall and Final Comments
Overall this was a great game with lots of potential and great humour. For being a sequel to such an old game, this was highly worth downloading and playing through.