There is a place where gamers who adore games that are just out of view of profitability go to die. It is a desert, and they crawl along pathetically, nourished only by the knowledge, their time will come and they will find the oasis they are after; the game they have wanted for so many years. Kingdom Hearts fans, near the point of death, have spotted water among the arid dunes, and Duke Nukem fans, having tasted the H2O and declaring its taste to be a bit funny, have moved elsewhere. Those fans are the lucky ones, and there are people who had been crawling along for years with little hope of ever seeing Barbie Horse Adventures 2. For a while, it looked as if Dead Island was to be buried underneath the sand, never to return, but then Rage of all fucking things sprung to life again, so anything is possible. And anything is possible indeed: Dead Island, the gory, 70s horror inspired zombie adventure game is coming back. That is, to mobile phones for a much more sanitised release.
The first thing that will hit players about Dead Island: Survivors won’t become apparent during the game; it’ll present itself on installation. Those blessed with the gift of sight will notice that the game is marked suitable for those 12 and up, which should indicate immediately that this is not the bloody good time you might have been looking for. The experience has obviously been cleaned up to reach out to a wider age bracket, meaning less violence and definitely no swearing. This comes with a heady dose of microtransactions and loot-boxes, so be forewarned, this is certainly not the prototypical style of Dead Island fare that fans have become accustomed to.
Even though it by no means has the “classic” feel of the series, Fish Labs work well within the confines they’re given. First-person action on mobile devices is often clunky and hampered by the fact that the screen doubles as an input and output device, so you’re literally blocking your own view, so Fish Labs go for the much more agreeable bird’s-eye camera, which faces the action from above at a pseudo-isometric angle. Because we’re not dealing in first-person mode here, the gameplay has to be adapted. Oh, you’re still killing zombies, alright, but doing so via a severely simplified control scheme through the lens of tower defence. You tediously pick out your tediously upgraded weaponry while the zombies shuffle tediously towards you, and you tediously pick off any loose stragglers by tapping your phone screen with all the tedious excitement of an office worker clicking a pen. Tediously.
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, Dead Island: Survivors is absolutely tttttttttrifling, and maddeningly so, just for how dull and boring they’ve decided to play an otherwise campy and colourful series. This is safe, and hideously so, for two reasons; for how streamlined and how bankable it is. It’s cut down the very essence of the series right down to the bone, like Dead Island for normies; something for your dad to play on the toilet when he’s gotten fed up with Fortnite. The uninspiring tower defence sections are glued – though not even glued together, more like held in place with old gum – together with offensively voice-acted “story” segments featuring beloved characters from the series prior, such as Sam B; as if the appearance of someone who resembles someone you used to like is an apt reward for playing the same turgid gameplay that has been used ad nauseam for the last ten years. The problem is that there’s no joy to be had, nothing interesting. You place your machinery, the zombies come, and you invariably chop them down. This is gaming at its jeepiest, with just enough essential parts here, the soul had leaked out, and the blood has been left all over the floor.
Fish Labs came in with the best of intentions, but this is a clear money grab that can’t escape the whiff of cynical moneygrabbery, and as such, it feels sterile and ultimately worthless. It’s a working mobile game, but it ultimately has nothing to make it worth your time, coming as a complete and utter affront to the Dead Island name.
VERDICT: More like Dead on Arrival Island: No Survivors.