This Week's Gaming Distraction: Radiation Island

Mobile games can be more than just match-three puzzles and in-app purchases; they can also create a genuinely compelling environment and immerse you in another world. The folks at Atypical Games provided me with a download code to play their latest release, the first-person survival horror game Radiation Island. In it, you are deposited on a mysterious island with nothing but your bare hands; you must find food, craft tools, fend off dangerous animals and zombies, and try to uncover the island's secrets. This may sound a little like Minecraft, especially considering the crafting mechanic, but Radiation Island's gorgeous graphics and open environment appealed to me in a way that Mojang's blocky world hasn't quite matched. I've quickly become invested in my character's fate and spent many hours wandering and trying to survive.

Radiation Island ($2.99) is not a casual game; it's something that requires time and patience. The open-world aspect means that you can spend as long as you want gathering supplies and exploring, but you're immensely vulnerable—like at night, when it becomes almost impossible to see without a fire (especially on an iPhone's smaller screen). There are some chests scattered around which will give you helpful items like a radiation suit, a bow, and medicine; you must craft everything else, starting with a flint-and-twig axe and building up to more complicated things like furnaces, bullets, and armor. Strange lightning arcs across the sky during the day, originating from a facility surrounded by zombies. If you read the journal entries you find on the island, you get an idea of how things came to be this way—a tale of weird experiments, magnetic fields, and strange purple crystals.

I'm nowhere near the end of Radiation Island; I approached the towers once, and was almost immediately killed by a zombie. I've spent most of my in-game days holed up in an old concrete tower on the beach, gathering enough supplies to make the journey into unknown territory. This has involved creating a variety of weapons, building a furnace for melting ores into metal, and crafting arrows for hunting. When night has fallen and I've been too far from my bed, I've had to sit in a corner, on constant watch for predators—when I'm not looking up at a sky full of beautiful stars. I've had to kill wolves for their pelts and meat, as well as sheep, bears, and zombies. The latter have dropped bullets, which you can use later once you find or make a gun, but that's a long way off in my journey—my most reliable weapon is still my bow.

Radiation Island has a little bit of a learning curve—I got hung up on some unclear instructions over how to mine ores—but overall the tutorial is well-written and the controls are pretty intuitive. I think it would be a great deal easier to play on a larger iPhone or iPad, and it's not a game you can really play unless you have your charger nearby; it has a tendency to drain the battery, as you'd expect from such a graphics-intensive app. But Radiation Island is quite beautiful and very immersive; there's a genuine sense of panic when you realize a group of wolves is closing in on you, and a rush of achievement when you score enough raw materials to craft something completely new. I'm fairly new to the survival horror genre, but this is a great introduction; you really can go at your own pace, which is great for newer players who may want to stock up on supplies before venturing into the unknown. Radiation Island is an impressive game that is anything but casual; if you give it a chance, it may just suck you in.

iPhone Life Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

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Author Details

Mia Steinberg

Mia Steinberg is a freelance writer and webmaster, living and working in Victoria, British Columbia. She is the host of Particles and Waves, an eclectic music radio show, and has written for XOJane, Cinefilles, and various Canadian university newspapers. Her website is <a href="http://particlesandwavesshow.com">particlesandwavesshow.com</a>, and she can be found talking about Game of Thrones at <a href="http://www.twitter.com/miasteinberg">twitter.com/miasteinberg</a>

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