Take the average endless runner fan and introduce them to Nono Islands, the new action adventure platformer for the iOS, and cue a reasonable amount of swearing and angry fist shaking. In Nono Islands, you’re presented with a series of levels, all of which work roughly the same way; your objective is to reach the treasure chest at the end of each level, collecting the keys to unlock it on the way, and all you have to do is tap and swipe to move. Seems simple enough, right? Well, for those used to more fast paced endless runner games like Temple Run or Subway Surfers, the game may prove a bit of a challenge. To quote the app’s editor’s notes, “one wrong step means certain doom”, and this app requires a certain level of patience and focus, even for some of the more skilled platform gamers.
Nono Islands seems to mesh the design and gameplay of iOS favorite Temple Run and the classic Playstation platformer Crash Bandicoot (a combination which evokes nostalgia for those such as myself who grew up with the early Crash games.) Before we jump into what makes this game great gameplay-wise, let’s take a look at it stylistically.
The Indiana-Jones style adventurer trope dates back pretty far, as does the theme of ancient ruins and treasure (I can’t help but mention the 2003 abomination, Minnesota Cuke and the Coconut Apes). This game’s developers seem to have an affinity for games released in 1996, combining the platformer feel of the previously mentioned Crash Bandicoot with the action-adventure dynamics of Core Design classic, Tomb Raider.
We can see Crash influences in the third person perspective of the game, the island setting and imagery, the design of the obstacles, and even the representation of levels through the use of a map of several islands in which each island is a stage with its own levels.
With only two basic controls, and no real character functions besides movement, Nono Islands has to be innovative in other ways in order to make the gameplay challenging, and it more than delivers in that department. This game is loaded with different types of obstacles, from spiders to squids to moving and disappearing platforms; the list goes on. The timer function increases the challenge, as players who are rushing to collect the special items and reach the end of the level as quick as they can are prone to mistakes, making skill and focus necessary and often warranting several replays of each level. The latter facet of this game is further exacerbated by the limited amount of checkpoints. Players can set each new level they reach as their previous checkpoint, but doing so costs tokens, which the player only receives a limited amount of in the beginning of the game. How does one earn tokens? In Nono Islands, one must either complete stages or pay money to receive more. While this doesn’t necessarily make the game pay-to-play, checkpoints are an essential facet of the game, and since playing without them is a major inconvenience, many players may feel frustrated with this particular game function.
But hey, you gotta make money somehow.
The music is quaint and ambient, but uplifting and adventurous. It does not particularly stand out, but it is not noticeably bad either. All in all, it is acceptable. However, the sound is where this app truly shines. Every action, not only that of the player, but also of the obstacles, mobs, etc. has a sound effect. If the player walks, we hear the steps, if the player falls into the water we hear the splash, and so on. In a game where attention to detail is important, the developers certainly practice what they preach. The full breadth of the sound is what makes this game all around excellent, and what seals the deal for me, making it immersive in every aspect.
Nono Islands stands to be one of the next big games in the iOS action-adventure genre. The game delivers on all fronts and save for the minor issue of the in-app purchases, is strong in every aspect. I encourage those who are bored and looking for a new game to spend their time on to go and download this app. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but it’s games like this that bring the fun back to iOS platformers.