Review: Eagle Island
Not everyone has the strength to come out of this experience without ruffling their own feathers
Eagle Island is a game that requires players to have intricate perfection as a prerequisite. Unfortunately, not everyone has the strength to come out of this experience without ruffling their own feathers. If you are going into Eagle Island looking for a stroll, you will be in for a rude awakening.
In the game players play as Quill as he explores the avian world of Eagle Island together with his one of his loyal owls Koji. Together they must fight their way through lush forests and treacherous caverns to rescue Quill's brother from the clutches of a monstrous eagle.
The story revolves around Quill, his avian companions, and the mysterious Eagle Island. At first, the game seems to be a repetitive affair as the player is introduced to the game's many gameplay mechanics. The story ramps up right after the introduction and hits the players with a twist.
In summary, it is up to Quill and his birds to stop the evil that lurks in Eagle Island. The narrative seems to allude to environmental conservation and how it is being manipulated for human gain. The plot of the game was nicely paced and can be picked up organically through the normal playthrough.
The game combines retrovania and rogue-lite properties. It has an "overworld" hub and sets of increasingly difficult dungeons that players traverse through to unravel Eagle Island's narrative. Some dungeons will provide Quill abilities such as double jumps and elemental attacks.
Gameplay can be described as a cathartic fountain but demands absolute timing at the same time; a double-edged sword. As players go through levels, they will encounter plenty of monsters with each having their own unique attacks. Whenever players pull a combo by killing two or more enemies in a row, they are rewarded with elemental attacks and hearts for more than four enemies in a combo.
This is essential to understanding Eagle Island's gameplay as players have a limited amount of elemental attacks and, more importantly, health. On the core difficulty, the player can only endure three hits from enemies until they have to either restart the level or gain more heart slots by purchasing chests or buying them from vendors.
These chests and vendors also provide tokens that can modify properties and abilities. Tokens can give your owl longer range or give Quill brief invulnerability, while others can drastically alter how one would go through the level. After each level a final boss fight takes place and players get a grade if they beat the boss.
The limited health is what players will have to be particularly mindful of because it leaves little room for error and as such can be a source of frustration for those who are looking for a more casual and relaxing experience.
With all of this, Eagle Island encourages reruns of each level by putting in secrets that can unlock doors in the overworld hub that are otherwise closed. The game can be played in story, roguelite or speedrun mode.
Graphics and sound
The graphics are phenomenal. It is your standard affair of pixel art graphics, but the animations of each character are fluid and natural. The world is colorful and emphasizes the character models, and for a retrovanian platformer like this it is essential.
Environmental animations are on par with the characters: the small creatures, grass, and water are very well animated in each dungeon. Enemies, especially the bosses, are interesting to fight and are well designed to adhere to the environments and feel-good gameplay.
Although the soundtrack is not an orchestral masterpiece, sound design corresponds to the action very well. In particular, what stood out to me was walking on plank bridges and hearing the wooden thuds that it emitted.
I want to whole-heartily recommend this game to anyone because of its satisfying gameplay and boss battles; however, I would be lying if I said there is not a thing wrong with this game.
I could never get used to the game's brutal nature. Even after turning down to "casual" difficulty, increasing the health limit to six, I was still unable to finish the game because it is simply too punishing for someone like myself. This is largely due to the fact that every encounter in the game requires so much precision and deliberate attacks.
After encountering a boss I could not beat, I decided to call it quits after dozens of attempts, to save the sanity I had left. This is not necessarily a knock on Eagle Island's quality as it is simply too good to pass up if you are someone who likes a difficult game. However, if you are going into Eagle Island looking for a stroll, you will be in for a rude awakening. This game will demand your dexterity to be tested with no holds barred.
Eagle Island released on July 11, 2019, for PC and Nintendo Switch.