Type: Exploration / Choose your own adventure
Time to play: 240-300 minutes (Teaching: 20-30 minutes)
Best played with: 2 Player (1-4 Players)
As a kid I remember reading choose your own adventure books – the stories which would tell you to turn to a certain page on certain conditions. This game takes the premise and allows you to choose between the various paths that jump out on a mysterious island. However, this game is far more complex than those books and the base game comes with four variances all playable on the same map. In this review, I will cover the base game in the second edition of the Kickstarter.
I jumped on this Kickstarter at the second offering because there was an incredible amount of hype about this. At first, when I opened the box I could see the attraction – huge numbers of cards and what appeared a very simple rule set. As I went through the first few plays though, there was a lot more to this game and some exciting choices about how to play.
So what is the game? The opportunity to explore an island which you are completely unfamiliar with. You start on the island and have almost no information. You will search the land, and seek to resolve a very dark and concerning dream that you recalled. In fact, its a curse. Oh and if that’s not enough of a concern, you will tire and grow hungry. Every step, action or attack is going to drain a very finite amount of resource (successful or not!).
Your agency in this game is a choice of action and direction. With almost no information throughout you will stumble blindly through the game to stumble upon clues and objects. If you do find your way through this treacherous landscape, you will see landmarks that you recognise and find clues to your dream. However, you WILL run out of actions so you better start to work out how to sleep and eat along the way. Will you fight for food in the jungle, will you chart a course along the coast or will you risk your life across rope bridges and rapids.
Every time you make a decision there is real risk. You draw an amount of cards based on the effort you want to utilise. You know roughly how much energy you have, so you need to plan how to use it but without knowing where the end lies. This risk management is tricky as some opportunities will be easier than others, and some things will require tools that you also need to spend energy to build. If you start to understand the landscape and the nature of the island, this may help you but in the end it will be a risk at each step. That risk is abstracted through stars on the cards that you draw – enough stars and you pass. Even one short, and the task was just a waste of energy – or perhaps even a painful failure.
Hopefully this is giving the impression of a confusing puzzle with no clear “right answer”, because even four hours in to the first mystery this was how I felt. Going into caves to search for clues and begging my companions to be careful when exploring and not to take unnecessary risks.
Oh and that’s an important part – this is a solo game but I think it plays best with 2-3 people exploring the puzzle. There will be moments when choices go wrong or other people’s abilities save you – these ups and downs are captured by the game mechanics and make it extremely fun and different to add players. However, it is one map, one goal and no hidden information so I can see the potential for an “alpha” player to quarterback the game – especially if they have failed this puzzle once or twice before.
This brings me to replayability. The game comes with four curses and is compelling to play through the failures until you win each curse. Your desire to go again once you have succeeded may be limited by recency or indeed by whether you are playing with the same number of players. Even when you know the answer, achieving the win is difficult and you can approach it from a completely different way to the last time.
The fact that there can be a quarterback or that replayability might be capped is a risk to this game. However, this should not hold you back if you are interested in what you have heard. The closest game I have come to this is Time Stories. The puzzle nature of Time Stories is exciting but the freedom of choice that you have in 7th Continent is incredibly powerful. The fact that game also makes you become a master of survival alongside the puzzle solving is a real challenge.
There is a really significant puzzle here and you will get frustrated by the challenges of the island. As you search the first time for each riddle I suspect you will fail, but this game teaches you as quickly as it frustrates you and there is a real route to victory.
- If you like puzzles, then this is the puzzle for you!
- If you prefer a co-op where you feel the game is trying to kill you (rather than time you out), then you might find some frustration
- If you win, try again with another curse