Eagle Island Review – Nintendo Switch

Developed By: Pixelnicks

Published By: Screenwave Media

Reviewed By: Tyler Higgs

Thank you so much to Screenwave Media for providing a review code

When Eagle Island was in its earlier stages of development, I played the demo and immediately thought the developer had something special here. I couldn’t wait to see the final project. Now that I’ve gotten the chance to play the final project, I believe it has lived up to my expectations.

Story

The story centers around a boy named Quill and his owls, Koji and Ichiro. As the trio is traveling on the sea a storm starts to brew and the group finds themselves abandoning ship and swimming over to a mysterious island. Suddenly a huge bird swoops down and takes Ichiro away. After meeting a scientist and learning about the giant bird Armarua, Quill is determined to save his friend, by conquering whatever the island has to throw at him.

Eagle Island’s story is touching, cute and even has a bit of twist and turns along the way. i wouldn’t say the story is dense and you most likely won’t be dissecting Eagle Island’s lore for weeks to come. What you will get is a nice little story that compliments the gameplay well.

Gameplay

Eagle Island is very much a platformer with Metroidvania & rogue-like elements mixed in. The game is split between having a hub world and levels/dungeons that you can explore. The first thing you’ll notice about Eagle Island is that it’s very centered around procedural generation.

Every playthrough of Eagle Island generates a seed, whether it be random or one you enter. This seed will randomize the levels you play and the world around you. There’s also an official seed that is essentially the story mode or primary campaign created by the developer. When you’re inside a level if you lose all of your health points, you’ll have to restart that level with a completely procedural new generation of it. This can sometimes be frustrating, but mostly it created a sense of exploration for every new level created.

Besides the general platforming elements that are similar to others in the genre, Eagle Island has a large focus on combat. Instead of the usual hand to hand combat or traditional weapon you use your owl (Koji) to attack. Your owl can be thrown in any direction and will fly out.

Once the owl collides with an enemy, it will damage it. If your owl collides with a projectile or terrain it will be slightly stunned for a second. If you can perform rapid hits with your owl and manage to nail your target you will start a combo chain. I should note that if you jump in the air and launch your owl you can continue hovering in the air, so long as your owl continues to hit an enemy.

It’s important that you try to be as precise with possible when launching your owl as, I found the controls were finicky. Trying to throw my owl in a diagonal direction often saw me throwing it straight ahead and that was frustrating. I know that at some points it was just my fault as I rolled my finger, but I know it happened many times not, because of me, but because of the touchy controls.

The combat sounds fairly simple as a premise, but there’s different elements that add a bit more depth to it. After exploring a few of the first levels your owl will actually gain the ability to transform.

There are 3 transformations fire, lightning, and ice. The transformations allow your owl to become more powerful and gain a new effect. For example, if you hit an enemy while an owl is in the fire transformation, he will explode when thrown and cause any enemies within that area of effect to be damaged. It’s important to use these transformations effectively, because they require something called Manarocs to use. This essentially acts as your MP and can be found from defeating enemies.

The enemies you’ll find in Eagle Island can differ quite a bit in their movements, attacks, and how they’re defeated. There’s a great amount of variety and enemies can’t all be defeated by mindlessly flinging around your owl.

Sometimes rooms will lockdown and require you to defeat all enemies inside to carry on. Some rooms will even be locked until a certain number of enemies are defeated.

At the end of every level will be a boss that must be defeated in order to complete the level. The bosses look great, but I actually found them to be a bit underwhelming. It’s not that they weren’t difficult, but I found their movements, attacks and general characteristics not very interesting and they made for relatively average boss battles compared to others in the genre. After the boss battle you’ll be provided a letter rank depending on how well you did during your run of the level.

Some bosses will also provide you with a new ability, after defeating them which will help you access previously unreachable parts of the hub world. These range from a double jump, a charge attack, or even the ability to swim under water.

Another element that Eagle Island offers to add variety to its gameplay are the Runestones. Runestones are extra bonuses and abilities that can be found in every level. Most of the time you will find them inside of chest, that are scattered about. To open a chest you need gold seeds which are obtained from defeating enemies.

Eagle Island offers an abundance of Runestones to be found. The abilities received from these Runestones can vary from gaining extra health, doubling your damage, or gaining a new ability that goes along with one of your owl’s transformations. This is where the rogue-like mechanics come into play. Should you lose all of your hit points while in a level you won’t only lose all of your seeds, but also your Runestones will all be gone. Don’t worry too much about it though, because they also degrade over time and will break while you’re in the level, after a while.

There’s also silver seeds that enemies drop which let you buy Runestones. In every level there are a few eagle statues that can be found that act somewhat like a resting area. You’ll usually have to clear out a group of enemies, before you can make use of it, however. Once you have cleared it out a toucan will come down and offer you Runestones, health, or Manarocs to buy. So, make sure you have plenty of silver seeds for these shops. You can also use the eagle statue in this room to fast travel between any others you have found in the level.

Eagle Island is a beautiful experience that blends an interesting world with fun combat mechanics. The boss fights aren’t the most interesting and you may get frustrated by the controls along the way, but neither of these stop it from being an excellent experience.

Extras

With its diversity of gameplay options, Eagle Island tries to present itself as a worthwhile option for veterans and newcomers of the platforming genre. Should you want the traditional experience you can adventure into your playthrough with 3 health points. If you’re looking for a bit of an easier time, the casual rules will double your health points to 6 giving you an extra edge over your enemies. Not only will you get extra health points, but the drop rate of Manarocs will also increase significantly. You can actually change these game rules whenever you like, so if you need some extra help or maybe less help you can change that.

For those who want the pure rogue-like experience you’re in luck. Eagle Island does allow you to activate “Rogue” mode which sees you trying to complete a whole playthrough with one life. For those who want a challenge this will most definitely provide one.

Along with extra game modes achievements are also offered for completing certain task in a playthrough. I mean I can’t complain about the inclusion og achievements. They help us feel like we’ve accomplished at least something.

Although, I didn’t finish one weekly speedruns are also available, which I assume will be very enjoyable for those who enjoy that type of challenge.

Presentation

Eagle Island is nothing less than a gorgeous pixel art platformer. Each of the levels and environments are handcrafted to have an absolutely stunning design. The wonderful mix of colors creates something that honestly leaves me speechless. In some ways Eagle island visual design gives me Super Nintendo style nostalgia, but it takes the colorful designs of those years and amplifies even further.

Enemies look fantastic and never got tiresome to see no matter how many mushrooms I murdered (did I really just write that..). The sountrack is is truly excellent and I can’t remember a platformer that’s presentation captivated me like this in recent memory.

Technical Issues

I did encounter a few frame rate issues during my time with Eagle Island. They weren’t constant, but they would happen once or twice in every level, which did ruin some of the game’s immersion. It was unfortunate to see such great gameplay stop all of a sudden, because the frame rate dropped.

Summary

The arrival of Eagle Island is a welcomed one as what we received is anything, but a disappointment. Yes, there are issues that hold it back from being perfect, but it’s a fantastic tribute to the platformer genre with good use of rogue-like elements and procedural generation. Eagle island is another good example that shows, you don’t need a huge team to create a wonderful experience for players.

8/10

Pros

  • Nice Story
  • Great Mix of Platforming & Combat
  • Intricate Combat Mechanics
  • Different Transformations Are Really Neat
  • Runestones Are an Interesting Addition & Add Variety
  • Absolutely Beautiful Visual Design & Soundtrack
  • Multitude of Different Gameplay Options For All Players

Cons

  • Controls Are Sensitive & Can be Frustrating to Maneuver
  • Bosses Are Relatively Underwhelming
  • Some Frame Rate Issues

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