[Review] Seers Isle – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Nova-box
  • Publisher: Nova-box
  • Release date: 15/10/2020
  • Price: £14.99 / $16.99
  • Review code provided by Nova-box

Intruducing: Seers Isle Switch Review

I have a certain fondness for the visual novel as a game format. While I haven’t played very many of them, some of those that I have played have been favorites of mine. Given the ability of the Switch to act as a handheld, it’s one of the best systems for these types of games right now and I do try and pick up one here or there. Seers Isle was one that caught me with the images of its art style on the eShop page, but can the story keep up?

Setting Sail

Seers Isle starts with a small group of traveling companions. They’re going to an island together in order to get the blessing of “the seers” so that they may return to their hometowns as shamans, able to do things such as wield magic or heal. The trip to the isle is a right of passage for any shamanic hopeful, one that can be deadly and they may not return from. It’s their goal to navigate to a tree that marks the boundary between their world and that of the seers intact, in hopes that they will be judged worthy. It’s a fairly simple premise, but with the magic of the seers at play to test them on the island, the journey will be a winding one.

However, despite the story starting with this group, it’s not really about them. It’s actually about this figure that you will start seeing in flashes and then more solidly, a horned girl that is trapped on the island and between worlds. Her voice is the one that tells us the story and it is her hand that nudges the choices of the other characters. Oddly, you don’t play as just one of the party, but shift between the perspective of the group, more nudging and guiding than making the choice as them. It feels odd at first, but it make sense as the story goes on and actually becomes pretty compelling as you attempt different paths towards the many endings that the game has.

Enigmatic Island

There’s a lot of different paths that you can go down depending on your choices, each with a wildly different ending with different characters in the spotlight. This is somewhat guided by 4 stats, each denoted by a different color and symbol. Each time that you make a choice that influences these stats, there is a rumble to your controllers and the effected symbol lights up at the top of the screen. While this is nice to see, it’s something you’re going to have to keep track of mentally as there is no other way to check the level of each other than your own memory. It’s also not completely clear what each of the symbols mean exactly so it’s not a case of, “this is the bravery symbol and this is the faith symbol” but instead “Oh, the hand and deer lit up again!” As a result, there is some trial and error when it comes to discovering what will effect what as you go through the story. I found myself mostly choosing a character to be my focus in each run that I went though, seeing how far I could take them in particular. 

The game is fairly short, so it’s not like each attempt is going to take you a long time. However, there aren’t a ton of times where what you are choosing is going to be telegraphed perfectly well. It’s not always a case of, this person will be left behind if you take this path, but more cases where you’re choosing smaller things or choosing what you say. There’s a lot of times where I was wondering what exactly caused something to happen, or if it was an inevitability of the path that I was on. It’s enigmatic, but that plays a little into the magical nature of the isle itself where things can twist and bend in unexpected ways. There’s an achievement screen where  you can see what path parts you hit and what endings you have gotten, but I found myself wishing for a little more clarity to be able to better find the few things that I had missed after a few runs.

Forest of Mystery

I said it was the art that had drawn me into the game and it didn’t disappoint in the slightest. Instead of this being done like a traditional visual novel with a few set backgrounds and characters move in and out of them in just a few static poses. Seers Isle has a much more dynamic take on the art, presenting you with images that look more like the pages of a graphic novel book. There’s a lot more points where things are presented with a more dynamic camera angel in order to give us some better scope of how things look. It’s great! This approach also means that the transitions into focal images of action are a lot more smooth, making everything feel more fluid and rhythmic. I also appreciate the way that the text boxes can be positioned all over the screen, drawing your eye to different spots to keep up your engagement. I really have to tip my hat to the team here!

The music isn’t quite as stand out, but it always suited the situation. The combinations of strings and drums here are really wonderful for bringing out that mystical feeling that the game is doing it’s best to evoke. I also appreciated that the game knew when to be quiet, when silence was the best thing for the moment. So many games want to prevent silence, but it can be a really powerful tool.

Approaching the Peak

Everything ran perfectly fine no matter what way I played. However, this was one where I spent most of my time in handheld mode since that’s just what these sorts of games are better suited for. You won’t have any trouble if you’re a tv player, though, as there are quite a few moments that feel epic enough in scope to suit the big screen experience. The only issue you might run into is the size of text depending on the size of your tv and how far away from it you are.

The Long Journey Home

Overall, I think that Seer Isle is one of those games that fans of the genre are really going to like. At 3-5 hours, it’s short enough that playing it doesn’t feel like a chore and there’s enough variation that it’s kept interesting even after multiple attempts. I’m looking forward to diving back in soon to mop up those last few endings that I have yet to find!

Pros

  • Stunning artwork
  • Diverse writing and characters
  • Quite replayable

Cons

  • Some will find it a little too short
  • Can be a little obtuse in how to go down a route you want

Verdict

Seers Isle is a game that a lot of players are going to love, even if it can be a bit obtuse at times.

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