Title: Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands
Developer: Lemonbomb Entertainment
Publisher: Merge Games
Genre: Adventure, RPG, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 17/10/2019
Price: £19.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Ah, Farming Simulations. After Stardew Valley’s huge success and it spread across all platforms, everyone could enjoy some farming. If you know me a little by know, you know I am a sucker for these kinds of games. Video games are my favourite way to kick back, but those with repetitive and easy-going tasks keep me hooked to my screen for hours. Kind of explains why I like grinding so much, I guess…
Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands was a welcome addition to the titles I already owned and maybe made some people turn their head even though the genre gets flooded by ideas and wanting to take a piece of the Stardew Valley fame. Hearing a Developer combining farming with something different, pirates in this example, sold me on the idea. As a long-term One Piece fan, I had to try it.
In the upcoming review for Rapid Reviews UK, you will learn if I was happily fulfilling the opportunity to be a multitasking pirate farming, fighting spirits and explore the unknown islands around me – or if my ship sunk in the first few hours, making me throw away my pirate hat for good.
Off to a new life
Imagine being off to a new destination together with your father and friends, into a new and perhaps better life. You can play either as a boy or a girl (both character designs are lovely and have their unique charm) and give your pirate a name. Soon you will leave the town you are currently living in and ship off to another island.
To no surprise, after you’ve heard the title, a strong storm out on the open sea prevents you from taking part in a smooth journey, so you get shipwrecked in the first 20 minutes of playing. The first task of the player is to get the crew back together. Unfortunately, even though you are stranded on a big island, there are other islands around you and your poor friends are trapped there.
The makeshift camp you will call home, for now, is very basic. It’s your task to make it worthwhile if you find your crew and you are all trapped on that island. One of the first things you can do is farming after you find a few of your comrades on the island around you, and find the resources to fulfil the task you were given. Building a shack for a member of the crew, for example.
You probably get it, it is a sort of survival game with little to no threats while you explore islands, gather and cook food as well as collect materials.
Running easily out of breath (and stamina)
If you are eager to do so and not enjoy the farming as much as I do, you can explore and build up your camp in a matter of the first few hours, almost gathering all your crew members. It requires a smart approach, though, since stamina and the players slow running pace is rather annoying.
Not only does our heroine/hero jogging slow, but you also spend stamina if you want to speed it up a little by running. Believe me, you want at some point, especially with a handful of islands that have a wide area to explore as well as continually winding pathways (caves are the worst!). You can recover stamina by grabbing a bite from the recipes you’ve cooked, but your inventory space covers mostly three dishes at first and giving away more space slots slowly by progressing through the story. This prevents you from trying to paddle up early to the last island. On the way there (yup, tried it and failed miserably), you can watch your energy go down faster than you can pronounce Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands.
Luckily for me, you can travel back from any destination back home. Saved me a couple of times from passing out cold in the open.
The simple life
Farming is rather enjoyable and straightforward and is explained well in the tutorial. The overall gaming mechanics need a little practice, but once you have mastered them, they are quite handy. I sometimes had to think again on how to switch through the whole inventory, but once you having a routine to it, it makes sense and is, actually, somehow fun, too.
The overall story besides the whole surviving and farming, searching for others and a way to escape from the island is rather dull. Some of the characters are, too. Fulfilling tasks sometimes require you to speak to a lot of the same people back and forth. Of course, to do so, you need to go from one end of the island to the other. I’m exaggerating a bit, but it’s a chore sometimes.
Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands has adorable and those nostalgic feeling low-poly graphics. I immediately thought of the older Harvest Moon games. Bright and cheerful colours and gorgeous looking water is a joy to look at. The soundtrack of the game is repetitive, sadly, but fitting. It’s soothing and never annoyed me. Sound effects are on point, too.
Accessible mechanics made for everyone (?)
Combat is also a thing later in the game. Once you reach the point to do so, it feels like a missed opportunity. I somehow enjoyed it being so late in the game since your stamina can run out quickly. This quickly leads to making you not able to explore as you might do in one day. Once you can cook stew and figure out more dishes to cook, it gets easier (despite the lack of inventory).
The cooking mechanic works as a little puzzle every time you want to expand the variety of dishes. You get several fields where you can put ingredients into, and a small symbol lets you know if the order is correct. The more ingredients you can work with, the more confusing it gets, though, leading you into confusion and therefore unnecessary trial and error sessions.
I did not encounter any of these bugs, but I heard there is a tonne of them. Although they occurred, the Development team is hard at work fixing them. I also had the feeling that they put a lot of effort into the game overall. The bugs I read about is that the included autosave function is broken, leading to your save file not able to secure any progress. Another bug is in the menu, where you cannot access it anymore, and the game still plays in the background. On other cases, key items disappeared from the inventory, making the story not able to finish at all.
Shipwrecked or saved?
Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands needs to hit its target audience. A person like me enjoying every kind of farming simulations and survival games besides the horror genre… Well, I did like it, too.
But especially when thinking of the average gamer and the number of competitor titles, the game I had the pleasure of reviewing isn’t necessarily the same enjoyable experience. The game is okay, the Developers did their best but were too cautious in a few attempts (battles can be won by smashing the attack button), and some of their ideas seemed fresh and ambitious, but ill-conceived in their translation.
As much as it breaks my heart, and I want to recommend it to everyone, I cannot. It is the typical “if it is your cup of tea, go for it”-game although experienced farming sim “experts” might find the whole game too repetitive and maybe even dull. I liked it but was sometimes wishing for a faster pace at some points. Even with enough preparation, stamina was still running out too quickly.
I’d say try to look out for it on sale or look out for the demo on the website (subscription to their mail list required) to dip your toes into the water of Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Stranded Sails – Explorers of the Cursed Islands from the Nintendo eShop on the following link, https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/Stranded-Sails-Explorers-of-the-Cursed-Islands-1657777.html
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.