Review: Zelda Classic Lost Isle

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Zelda Classic is a computer rewrite of the original Legend of Zelda game. Eventually, support for custom quests was added, and now there are hundreds of custom user-made quests using the Zelda Classic engine. One such quest is Lost Isle, one of the best quests I have found, and possibly the best made custom quest for the engine. Through this article I will be reviewing the game, and giving opinions from a game development point of view.

As said in the previous Zelda Classic review, most of the games interface is borrowed, just skinned. This game is very different than most however, in how beautifully done the interface is. The minimap isn’t quite as good as End of Time’s, but the dungeon maps are insanely well detailed, and the whole interface is very well done. Similar to End of Time, Lost Isle uses the older style ammo for the bow, but because Lost Isle is abandoned and has no humans to buy from, rupees are out, and instead you trade arrows to some more peaceful monsters for items. One downfall to how large of a quest Lost Isle is, is that the whole map doesn’t fit on a single overworld map. This means you can’t look at the entire world map at once, you have to travel to different regions to see it’s map. The game also uses palettes quite extensively, which causes some parts of the map to look strange. Also the map sometimes has holes or mistakes on it, because of how many hacky tricks used in the game to get around the engines shortcomings. The gameplay is made great by them, but there’s a few regions you cannot see on a map because of it.

Speaking of gameplay, Lost Isle has that one in the bag. Not only does it borrow elements from the official Zelda games, it expands on them with it’s own tricks and gameplay quirks. One of the biggest examples is the massive amount of optional content, including the triforce pieces. The games story could be beaten without doing a large portion of the game, even if it would be easier if you took the time to get everything. Each dungeon also has it’s own special tricks to it, and are massive, generally taking hours to finish each one. With the overwhelming size of the world, it takes someone with very good memory to get everything done in the game.

Unlike most Zelda Classic quests, Lost Island has quite a good bit of story behind it, given to you gradually through the game by statues and interactions around the world. The first portion of the game you run into the ghosts of the towns people who died, seemingly behaving as though they were still alive. Although there is a town on the island, it is destroyed, and overrun with monsters. It is where you spend the first little bit of the game figuring things out, and has a few friendly monsters who will chat with you a bit, giving hints or hiding secrets. It also has the entrance to the most useful cave in the game, which has portals inside it to other areas of the world, usable if you have unlocked them.

The dungeons in Lost Isle can only be described as amazing. They are all massive winding mazes, requiring lots of thought to get through. Each dungeon also has a theme to it, giving each a unique feel and strategy. There is no real difficulty curve to them, each one is about equally challenging, and needs just as much time and energy to beat. Of course this is from a player who has gotten every side item, a player who didn’t would most likely experience a quick rise in difficulty as they got through the game. The game also caters to different players, although both puzzles and fighting are throughout the game, at some points players are given the option to go through a complex puzzle, or a room full of enemies, to reach the same goal. The only problem I have ever had with a dungeon was with the second one, which in order to beat requires the player to use a hidden secret pathway, with no hint that I could find that it was there. Everything together though, these dungeons are not to be missed, and were very well designed.

The items were well spread out and used to control movement through the game, and used in interesting ways, in this quest. Aside from shooting enemies, the bow is frequently used to hit hidden switches in the mouth of a statue, or in a hole in the wall. Bombs are not only used to blow open holes in the wall and damage enemies, but also to open pathways to the warp tunnels under the island, making them somewhat like a pricey payment. All the items in the game have multiple uses, that allow you to progress further and access new secrets when discovered. Many of these uses are not hinted at in the game, and it is left to the player to figure it out themselves. The game also doesn’t use all the possible items Zelda Classic offers. Probably a good thing, as the game is already quite large with what it does have.

Although a great game, every game could use a bit of polishing. The dungeon two problem mentioned earlier is a big one, being the only time I had to check online for help for the game. Also, some monsters in the game do not blink when immune to damage after an attack, making it difficult to time attacks and over all just a pain to deal with. The progression through the story could have also been handled better, in it’s current state, blue bushes shrivel up as you beat each story dungeon, allowing movement to new areas. It would have been much better if there were keys found at the dungeons, or some other single use item to get past the spot. The game could also use more easter eggs and less optional side material. One optional dungeon, Link’s Dream, is absolutely hilarious, and very indie. In my opinion, it would of been better as a hidden easter egg, than the method to get an item upgrade.

Probably one of the best games I’ve played in a long while, Lost Isle has both given me plenty to enjoy and much to think about in game design. Although time consuming, it is one of those things that compels you to play more, and can keep you busy for hours. Although there are a few things that could use fixing, the amount of polish in this quest considering it was made by just 2 people is quite amazing. Next week I will be reviewing some indie giants, games almost everyone at least knows of.

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