Sometime back in the Stone Age, your tribe was attacked in the night. A small band of survivors managed to make it to a raft and escape the slaughter. But what exactly happened during that fateful hour? That, my friend, is none of your Bxnes.
In Isle of Bxnes, you play a warrior from one of several unique tribes set sail on the open ocean in search of… I’m really not sure. Adventure? Survival? Settlement? Perhaps all of the above. Supported by a skeleton crew of rafters, you’ll continually sail East in search of new islands to explore and return with furs that turn your lady on something fierce. The more furs you collect the more sons she’ll bare, thus increasing the survivability of your budding tribe.
You begin by choosing one of 5 of the original tribes – a luxury that belies the immediacy of a midnight escape. Each tribe comes complete with its own benefits and drawbacks familiar to anyone who has played an RPG (think rogue, warrior, mage, ranger) in the form of stats. Muscle determines how much damage your character inflicts, Focus improves your chance to hit, and a high Stride will let you move quickly on foot. Once you decide who to play, you set sail… on a crappy raft, and always to the East. It should be noted here that, due to the roundness of most planets, heading East indefinitely ought to eventually return you to the same island from whence you came. Hopefully things will be better by the time you get back.
A Village At Sea
The first thing you’ll notice having finally made it out to the open ocean is a looming sense of confusion. On your ramshackle raft sits 3 huts and 5 tribesmen (including yourself). I’m not even going to comment on how un-seaworthy a raft will be if you build huts on it. With nary an opening tutorial to illuminate your path, your confusion is well founded. Fortunately, the Oarman will offer you a basic overview of the controls once you land on the nearest island. Each of the remaining 3 tribesmen offer services integral to your survival in the form of healing (Witch Doctor), acquisition and training of skills (Shaman), or doing the nasty (Guard Fruela).
Isle of Bxnes sports a random collection of encounters each time you start a new game. Each play through involves a series of iterative island visits featuring enemies to combat, friendly tribes to trade with, and loot to be pocketed. The more islands you “clear”, the more powerful you will become and the more sons you’ll have the opportunity to bear. One small misstep however, and it’s game over.
Since nearly all of the action occurs on each of these tiny islands, let’s talk a bit about the island experience. After landing on the beach, you move your hunter around using a crudely constructed d-pad. While not in the heat of battle, you have the luxury of slowly making your way around the island destroying blocks and picking up the odd fur or berry. Once in battle, however, things get hairy. The d-pad is awkward and often leaves you facing the wrong direction, whiffing your bone sword at thin air while a maggot slices at your calves from behind. Bxnes is a brutal game when it comes to taking damage, allocating hits to individual body parts. If your legs take a beating, for example, you’ll start walking awfully slow. A couple hits to your hunter’s soft exterior will result in a dirt nap. What this all boils down to is, it’s unfortunately extremely easy to die do to shoddy controls.
Should you successfully make it to the other side of an island, you can blow your conch and return to the raft for healing and training. Should you die on the island, one of your sons will spawn in your place allowing the journey to continue. The essence of Bxnes is to see just how far you can get before you throw your tablet at the wall out of frustration. At the end of each play through, you’ll be given a run-down of each island you encountered in the form of a big table. Each island has a name like “Sammako Tribe” or “Ancient Maggots”, and each name has a number next to it – the meaning of which I have yet to discern. Since there are 20 total cells in this summary table, I imagine that exploring 20 islands means you win the game? I’ve never made it past 8…
There are 2 graphics settings in Bxnes – low and high – but no matter how you slice it the “beautifully hand drawn pixel art and featuring thousands of animations” looks terribly dated and seems to be taxing on hardware. Isle of Bxnes truly confers the impression of an amateur indie title. I do have to admit, the allure of randomized island encounters kept me going for a few games but the combination of terrible controls, lack of direction and dated graphics quickly lost my interest. This is an interesting concept-game, but it really feels incomplete. On the plus side, the $2.99 price tag comes with zero freemium content. I’m just not sure it’s even worth $2.99 compared to other titles on the market.
+ Randomized island encounters keeps things interesting
+ Decent variety of skills and loot
– Terribly difficult to control during combat
– Dated pixelated graphics
– Lack of clear direction/tutorials
– No way to undo a skill purchase