• Perhaps a better title would’ve been “Misery Atoll”. I’ve been known to dabble with the odd browser game here and there. These things are usually purpose-built for providing a quick distraction from the daily grind of mashing my way through spreadsheets or word documents, or staring listlessly at page after page of PHP code.

    Most browser games are freebies but now and again browser game developers get ideas above their station, and start charging for games that really don’t warrant the price tag.

    Step forward Bliss Island, which is an XBLA title retaining all the simplicity of a browser game, but for a rather crazy price (400 points).

    Codemasters / Pom Pom games may well have aimed the title squarely at the younger player and the game’s certainly styled to stimulate anyone’s sense of “cute” but kids get bored very quickly in my experience, and pernickety game-playing adults doubly so.

    Bliss Island dishes out a simple set of mini-game challenges based around a bizarre set of creatures and their antics on the titular island of bliss. Each game relies on the player performing a set number of tasks in order to clear the level and succeed. Clear the whole island and Hoshi, the cute little fuzz-ball, gets a day off.

    Bliss Island

    The game is divided into several sections and you can choose to play individual game challenges, or dive straight in with the main quest mode. There are also head-to-head multiplayer challenges but it seems the rest of the world doesn’t want to play on Bliss Island either, as I couldn’t find one other player to get a game on with.

    The basic mechanics of each mode are pretty similar but it’s handy to be able to practice sections at will in single player mode at least, meaning that you may just find at least one game that suits your particular gaming tastes.

    Diving into the quest mode, the first minigame involved shooting jets of air at pieces of fruit that drop from the top of the screen in order to knock them into a monster’s gaping maw. As each level of the first minigame progresses, more and more obstacles are placed between your player character (a sort of hose-nosed beastie) and the monster’s capacious mouth. Getting the pieces of fruit in requires a modicum of skill, and extra points are awarded if you manage to bounce the fruit off other objects before the eventual drop.

    As I said before, this would probably make quite a neat little browser game but the task in hand soon becomes repetitive, frustrating and if I’m honest hellishly boring.

    Once you’ve cleared that challenge, the next level involves guiding another weird creature through a labyrinthine cavern system collecting gems and air capsules in order to progress. Again it’s nice to see that the game varies each challenge and game play dynamic but even though the games do get slightly better and slightly trickier as you work your way through quest mode, you can’t help but think that there would be better games to waste your time (and indeed your money) on.

    Then there’s the visual style. It’s weird, it looks like someone’s first Macromedia Flash project and the creature characterisation and background graphics look like a cross between Rare’s bug-eyed cute stuff and some horrific genetic experiment gone wrong. Sound is no better either, with grating repetitive tunes and lacklustre sound effects.

    So in essence, Bliss Island lacks the incentive to get involved enough with the game to beat it in its entirety. Without a subject young enough to test my theory of the game not even appealing to kids out on, it’s difficult to say whether Bliss Island might find a following amongst young gamers just cutting their teeth on the first faltering steps of their gaming “career”. Personally I don’t think kids should have their intelligence or spark of interest dulled by games like this so I’d probably recommend something a bit meatier such as Viva Pinata or The Spiderwick Chronicles rather than foisting sub-par stuff like Bliss Island on them.

    Though it’s difficult to find much of worth on the Xbox Live Arcade for 400 points, there are other games that are probably more worthy of your attention and if you really do have a massive need to play this, it’s probably worth pointing out that it’s also available for the PC for free.

    Score: 2/10

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