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Amazing Island Review

Ben_Silverman By:
GENRE Action 
E Contains Cartoon Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Go to Hawaii instead.

Just when you thought you were safe from Pokemon knockoffs and mini-game nonsense, Sega's Amazing Island rises up from the ocean of rehashed game concepts to take residence in your Gamecube. But unlike the myriad of games it attempts to emulate, this colorful chunk of land lacks the depth and fun to warrant anything other than a very brief visit.

Straight out of The Neverending Story, you play as an 11 year-old child who is mysteriously transported to Amazing Island while reading about it in a book. Apparently, you were summoned by one of the last remaining Maboo locals to help defeat the Black Evil - a gang of bad monsters who have turned the once quaint land into a slightly less quaint land. In order to accomplish this feat, you must build a monster of your own and challenge the evildoers to button-mashing mini-games.

I realize this game inherently targets younger children, but that doesn't mean the story and premise has to be written by one. None of it makes a lick of sense and the alternate world is entirely flat and uninspired. A little effort next time would be great.

Luckily, you won't pay any attention to the silly plot as soon as you figure out Amazing Island's one cool feature - the ability to draw and accessorize your own unique little monster. This isn't entirely new to gaming (Magic Pengel for the PS2 did it most recently), but it's still pretty interesting and works well here.

After choosing one of several basic body frame types (you can acquire more through playing), you use pen tools to literally draw out a monster, piece by piece. When you're all finished, the game will spit out an eerily accurate, fully 3D version of your art project, which you can then customize using a wide variety of paint schemes, voices and accessories.

At first your choices are somewhat limited, but you quickly gain access to a huge assortment of new parts and schemes. Fancy wings, marble coloring, goofy eyes, brutal horns, claws, axes, antennae, shoes, noses, ears… the number of accessories is quite impressive and some of them theoretically boost your monster's five basic performance ratings.

I say theoretically because Amazing Island does a terrible job explaining the relationship between the objects and the ratings. It's fairly clear that a reddish monster will be Fire aligned, but figuring out if the Cat Claws are more useful than, say, the Saw Blades, is impossible. The bulk of the accessories seem cosmetic anyway and the game does nothing to convince you otherwise.

The, uh, "good" thing is that the actual gameplay in Amazing Island is so mindless, your monster's ratings don't seem to matter much at all. You simply take your monster through a series of courses comprised of a collection of genuinely boring and ill-designed mini-games, most of which are so easy, you wonder why you needed a monster in the first place. Mercilessly pound the A button to win a race. Stop the little meter in the right place to shoot baskets. Hold down A to spin into other monsters and bump them out of the ring. Creativity is not the most abundant crop on Amazing Island.

Hence, the single-player game is a quickly tiring affair of building a monster (cool), taking it through the crummy mini-game paces (not cool) and then scrapping it as you build a new monster (less cool than it was the first time). Any enjoyment you'll find in building monsters is pretty quickly squashed by the bland gameplay.

But it's almost as if the developers knew they were not giving you enough entertainment, so they threw in an entirely separate gameplay style in the form of Card Battles. You'll collect cards while playing the single-player game (or you can turn your monsters into cards themselves), which can then be downloaded into your GBA and used as part of a very basic, very shallow turn-based Pokemon rip-off. If this was available to play without a GBA, it would at least just be considered an underwhelming alternate game mode, but the fact that it requires a GBA and a link cable makes it less accessible and more of a throwaway.

I think whoever named this game Amazing Island wasn't referring to its looks, because aside from some bright cheery colors, it's a pretty dull place. The character models and environments are oddly plain, seemingly there just to give you something to look at while running your little dorky avatar to the next set of mini-games. Aside from the genuinely cool tech behind the monster creation system, it's not much of a graphical show.

The game is mercifully short on sound, which could have easily turned this into an aggravating exercise in overly cutesy-wutesy voice acting. Instead, it's just a collection of typical midi tracks lots of text scrolling.

I suppose if you look at Amazing Island purely as a digital version of a coloring book, it's not that bad; playing Frankenstein and bringing your monsters to life can appeal to young and old alike. Unfortunately, the poorly designed mini-games and boring gameplay takes most of the joy out of creation, effectively dropping this fantasy land into the shallow end of the kiddie pool.

D+ Revolution report card
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