IFReviewed by Greg Boettcher
on 2005-10-10 09:18
If you're interested in trying out the latest old-school puzzlefest, this is the game for you. One warning, though. Like many another old-school game, Reefer Island is quite frustrating and hard. After spending about ten hours on it, my progress slowed to a crawl, and I still wasn't close to the end of the game. You can adjust that for the fact that I'm a below-average puzzle-solver (and I spent a ridiculous amount of time mapping the game), but still, if you want to win this game, be prepared to put in days of effort and probably contact the author for hints. If this game had hints, I could recommend it much more highly.
The prologue sets the tone: you're on a cruise with a group of hemp activists, when suddenly, during the night, the ship hits a reef. Somehow you find a lifeboat, get separated from everyone else, and drift to an island: Reefer Island. In most scenarios like this, the challenge would be to find a boat and get back home. But no, forget that -- all you want is your next bong hit.
That's one of the strengths of the game -- its humor. As another example, I got a kick out of the game's "you have died" message:
*** You have died. Your only regret is that, when you did, you were jonesing for a buzz. ***
In Emily Short's "Non-review of Reefer Island," she said, "The puzzles themselves are very old-fashioned in character." I'd have to agree, which makes them a mixed bag. Most of the puzzles I solved were fairly logical and supported by at least one clue, but I have to wonder about the ones I didn't solve. Eventually I got frustrated enough to resort to brute-force methods, such as walking around with every item I could carry and typing "GIVE ALL TO" every person I met. In one case I solved a puzzle that way, and it was a puzzle I never would have solved otherwise. I admit I had seen one clue for that puzzle, but the clue was so obscure, I never would have figured it out.
Now for the worst part of the game. Remember how I said this is an old-school game? Well, I meant it. Reefer Island has a hunger timer, a sleep timer, even a small maze. All of these are irritating, but the hunger timer is the worst, making it totally impossible to win on your first playthrough. From what I can tell, you have to play the game a dozen or more times just to gather knowledge, hoping that eventually you'll know enough to squeeze in a winning set of moves during the time before you starve. I did find one source of food, but it didn't prevent starvation; it only delayed it, and not by all that much. On the other hand, perhaps there is a better source of food that I didn't find.
The other bad part of the game is its non-interactive characters. Most characters don't respond to even the most obvious topics of conversation. Some characters can't be spoken to at all. That irritated me.
If Reefer Island had come out in 1985, it would have been hailed as a great game. Now it has to settle for being of interest only to the minority of the IF community. But if you're interested in playing the latest big old-school puzzlefest, then by all means do try this game. Just be prepared to spend many days on it, and you should probably be prepared to email the author for hints, too.
I made a map of this game and uploaded it to the archive. My map is fairly non-spoilerish, showing only the initially available locations in the game. The only puzzle it spoils is the maze. You can get it from here. (It's meant to be printed, not viewed on-screen, so save it to your computer, then use a graphics program to print it.)