[Review] Eagle Island – Nintendo Switch

Written by Alex Laybourne
  • Developer: Pixelnicks
  • Publisher: Screenwave Media
  • Release Date: 11/07/2019 (US) 18/07/2019 (EU)
  • Price: £TBD/ $19,99
  • Review code provided by Pixelnicks



Welcome to Eagle Island

If ever there was an indie game that was highly anticipated, then Eagle Island is that game. Funded by over 1000 Kickstarter backers, it has been teased and demoed for a while now. The initial reception was high, and praise was lauded.

How does the full game hold up? Does it live up to the expectations that were placed on it? Keep reading to find out.

Eagle Island Nintendo Switch

Eagle Island, Where Only the Quick Witted Survive

Welcome to Eagle Island, where everything wants you dead. While this fact is not immediately addressed when you wake up on the seashore, it very soon becomes apparent.

After washing up on the shores of the island, your day is further flighted when one of your pet owls is attacked and stolen away by the legendary eagle-god Armaura. After meeting an explorer, similarly trapped on the island, you are taught how to fight back against the environments many perils by using your remaining owl Koji as a weapon. Cast Koji off, directing her towards enemies as you traverse the land hunting down Armaura with the goal being to end her rain of terror once and for all.

A gorgeous high definition pixel art game with awaits you, with a compelling story, clever platforming and creative RPG components in the form of powerups that can be purchased from randomly-generated treasure chests using coins collected in the game.

A roguelite title with an incredible 75 billion different level combinations as a result of not only the different levels but the ordering of each room that comprises them being procedurally generated as you go. With each room being a single screen, the hidden size of the game is incredible.

Every playthrough will present you with a unique challenge that keeps the game both difficult and compelling.

The game plays like a dream. The levels and enemies are varied in both appearance and the threats they pose. The backgrounds are stunning to look at and are busy enough for you to overlook some threats until it is too late. Quick reactions are a must if you want to survive on the island.

The controls and combat system are a surprisingly fun part of the game, being different enough from most modern games to present a learning curve, while ultimately being a straightforward and simple mechanic.

Although the combat is not without its flaws, or perhaps true gamers would call this part of the challenge, but for the casual gamer it can be all to easy to get your button combinations wrong and rather than shoot your owl at the enemies beneath you, you send her hurtling in the wrong direction, while yourself plummet to your death, all because you release a button in the wrong order. Again, hardcore gamers will call this part of the fun of the game, causal gamers will be annoyed when this happens once too often and they die and need to start their journey all over again.

It is very much a case of the more you play the more instinctive and fluid the combat becomes. Just remember to keep Koji as close to you as possible. Don’t try for distance kills when you are surrounded, as without your owl you are defenseless and in close quarters, time is a luxury the game does not afford you.

Eagle Island Nintendo Switch

Different Game and Progression Mechanics Keep You Alert

Not only is the game procedurally generate as you move through the level, but it adds to the progression mechanic by presenting you will several different challenges that impede your movement from one room to the next.

You have those rooms that you can just clear though, killing everything or skipping that which is not necessary. Then you have rooms that require you to have a certain number of coins in your wallet. Coins that are obtained by defeating said enemies in previous rooms. The final and by far trickiest rooms are the ones that lock on all fronts and pit you against a barrage of enemies, only unlocking once everything has been vanquished. Sometimes this is easy, the stars align and one of the special feathers you have equipped will get the job done in a couple of throws, and other times you are surrounded and hurling Koji around like a madman, desperate for a window of escape, even if it is just to reposition for the next engagement.  This adds a lot of fun and interesting challenges to the game.

The inclusion of RPG-like gameplay in the form of purchased powerups is another level of detail that adds to the replayability as well as the depth of the game’s content. You collect these power-ups by opening chests. You can have any four equipped at once, and they range from everything from a double jump to an extra life heart. The majority of these items are temporary, expiring after a certain period of time. They can also always be swapped out by other findings as you unearth them.

With so many combinations of both character abilities and room layouts, it is impossible to go through everything.

There are nine different story environments across a range of biomes. There are also sixteen post story levels and a total of twelve bosses that need to be taken down. Each level officially ends after you have defeated the level boss, but each death resets your run and the stop clock associated with it.

Nintendo Switch Eagle Island

A Game for All Types of Players

There is a single core game mode, but given the nature of the game, each playthrough is, essentially, a brand-new experience.

The game tracks several elements for each run, including times and the number of monsters skipped, an interesting change from the monsters killed statistic normally used.

Within the game mode, there are a few sub-options that you can play through.

Full-Experience

In this mode, you play through the game with its full random generation, with the level building around you. The luck of the draw will play a role in how long it takes to reach the end boss and complete the level.

Official Seed

Play the same game, but with a pre-determined route. There are still several ways you could go, with wrong turns to lead you astray, but the game loads with a pre-determined route set. This takes nothing away from the game itself and offers the same challenge in such a way that the changes are not even noticeable. However, it lends itself to the final treat that Pixelnicks offer their fans.

Weekly Speedrun Contests

If you join the Eagle Island Discord group you will get access to their weekly speedrun events. (At the time of reviewing the game was not officially released, so anybody reading later may find the speedrun information also available in the game)

All of these things combined offer an exceedingly high replayability factor and a game that just doesn’t grow old.

Post-Game Content

Completing the story mode is only going to account for about 50% of the game’s completion. The team has created sixteen post-game levels (that’s more levels than there are in the story mode itself), to challenge those that are eager to get that golden 100% mark.

This was done to help have the game appeal to both casual gamers looking to play and beat a story line, and the more hardcore who want to beat and collect everything.

Nintendo Switch Eagle Island

Gorgeous Graphics Make for a Stunning Experience

The pixel art style is enjoying something of a resurgence on the Nintendo Switch right now, and when you look at the polish of Eagle Island it is easy to see why. Pixelnicks have clearly spent a lot of time on this project, polishing everything. They have worked with several different artists to create the right style of the different elements:

  • Environment
  • Enemies
  • Bosses

The different creatures that cross your path all look different and pose a different challenge, even those that fall within the same base species. Looking at you, poison mushrooms.

The game’s soundtrack is another big tick in the positive column The tune is catchy and fun but never overpowering or detrimental to the gaming experience. Similarly, the interaction-based sounds from jumping to combat are simple and effective. Neither threatens to compete with one another, but rather, work in harmony to compliment the engrossing narrative of the gameplay.

A Triumph of Indie Game Development

From the gameplay to the graphics the game comes together to create a truly special experience. Much like Celeste and Shovel Knight have done in years past, Eagle Island threatens to change the face of indie gaming for the better.

The depth content goes beyond what can realistically be captured in a review and needs to be experienced in order to be fully understood and appreciated.

Even the occasional issue with the combat system and how easy one can die rather than throw your owl in the intended direction cannot take away from the games enjoyment factor. When forced to look for a weak area, the story itself would probably need to be noted, but, given the style of the game, the influences behind everything and the overall finished article, it would be finding criticism for the sake of it.

Conclusion

Eagle Island is a fantastic achievement in all avenues, and the fact that is was the first full (completed) project from the Pixelnicks team only severs to excite with the prospect of what is yet to come.

Eagle Island on Nintendo Switch

Pros

  • Enormous depth of content
  • Great look and feel
  • Unique combat style
  • Beautiful environments and characters

Cons

  • Combat controls take some getting used to
  • No ability to configure button settings
  • Not the strongest or most detailed storyline.

Verdict
This game is a testament to what can be achieved when passion is the driving force of a project.
4/5

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