“Birds of a feather…”
“The following is a contributor post by the Backlog Crusader Mage.”
Eagle Island is a charming, robust action platformer that is likely to be the next runaway, indie-darling hit. Offering multiple game play modes, beautiful level and creature design, and impressive attention to detail, Eagle Island offers something for everyone and has excellent replay value at a happily reasonable price point. This modernized retro title is one I feel comfortable wholeheartedly recommending for just about any type of video game player!
Eagle Island is an excellent game overall, but it’s a bit light on story and that is its only real weak spot. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the platforming genre does not necessarily need much in every case, but a little more depth might have been fun. That said, the narrative in Eagle Island is pretty straightforward.
Quill is navigating the high seas with his two owl companions, Ichiro and Koji, when a ferocious storm leaves them shipwrecked on Eagle Island. Shortly after venturing ashore, a massive eagle swoops down and carries away Ichiro in a gust of wind and feathers. Quill and Koji are shocked and shortly thereafter meet another marooned man who gifts them an enchanted falconry glove that allows the pair to acquire magical powers on their quest to save Ichiro.
The gameplay in Eagle Island is all based on falconry! This is a rarely used mechanic that I was surprised to realize I haven’t seen as the focus in any other title aside from Falcon Age. Koji can be aggressively launched at enemies using the falconry glove by aiming him in one of 8 directions. Quill runs, leaps, and climbs, while Koji follows in the air, attacks enemies you send him toward, and will even save you from falling to your death.
During your travels, you will find multiple types of enchanted items which imbue Koji with elemental powers that are fun to use and helpful in many different scenarios. As you play through the impressive level design of the story mode, random perks can be found that augment Quill and Koji’s abilities. You can only hold a certain number of upgrades at once and they eventually wear out with time.
The only issues I noticed with the gameplay of Eagle Island were occasional frame rate hiccups at odd times, even without many enemy models on screen at once. The controls on the Switch are slightly clumsy, a little inconsistent or fiddly in a way I can only assume PC controls probably would not be, though I have not had a chance to compare them. It was something I did get used to and eventually stopped thinking about for the most part. A few of the zones were especially long and felt as if they needed a checkpoint in the middle, because dying right at the end only to replay the whole level just to die at the boss again became frustrating.
Eagle Island’s aesthetic leaves little to be desired. It has it all! I have rarely seen as much or more detail put into pixel environments prior to my experience with Eagle Island. Flowers sway in the breeze, water splashes through holes in rocky ocean walls, dandelion puffs break apart as you pass, and little, ambient critters meander underfoot, slipping off to hide if you get too close. Off in the distance, you’ll see deep, lush forests, tumbling waterfalls, towering clifftops, and rolling cloudbanks. The environments feel alive thanks to these natural looking, organic details.
Quill’s movements are even a little bird-like, mainly in how his arms vaguely flap like wings as he jumps. It’s a nice, thematic touch. The creature design is excellent as well, though in some areas the enemies do not stand out enough from the environment and become hard to track when a lot of action is happening on the screen at once.
The soundtrack of Eagle Island is lovely and goes well with each environment available to explore. The themes are long enough to not become repetitive, while still pleasant and catchy. Sound effects are well suited to their respective actions. Attacking has a nice, satisfying thwack as Koji shows his target who’s boss.
Some of the enemy noises I found very annoying, such as the large blue rats that all make the same squeak any time they jump or attack, which is often, and they usually travel in packs so you hear it constantly when you run into them. The low health warning beep is far too frequent and I turned it off right away, and even having the ability to turn it off is a nice option.
Eagle Island has versatile customization options that allow you to tailor the experience to your preferences. The default difficulty mode is quite challenging yet reasonable and satisfying. There is a perfectly approachable casual mode that I would not quite describe as “easy” in the traditional sense. The hard mode will appease even loyal Dark Soul’s fans’ deepest desires to tear their own hair out. (In a good way!)
Enemies each have specific mechanics they throw at you which you will have to learn how to handle as you proceed through the zones. The bosses are wonderfully detailed, appropriately concerning to battle, and will leave you within an inch of death by the time you learn how to best them.
While Eagle Island is bright and cute, it is not a game for kids on its native settings. It is easy to die even on the casual mode if you are not careful enough. The game is perfectly approachable by casual gamers as well as those who are left-handed or have visual impairments. There are a host of settings to play with if desired that can fine-tune the difficulty based on player needs, including auto-aim, game speed, character outlines, etc.
Replay Value: 10/10
Taking into consideration the story mode, the rogue-lite mode, and a weekly speedrun challenge, Eagle Island is overflowing with content that will keep players busy and coming back for a long time.
My Personal Grade: 8/10
I tend to prefer games with more focus on story that pull me into the lore with compelling, immersive narrative, so Eagle Island did not resonate with me as much as it could have due to its lighter, oblique storytelling elements. I recognize this won’t matter to every player. However, it did absolutely tug on my love of animals and art in games. Koji is adorable and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him and Quill in the gorgeous world of Eagle Island. I will certainly be playing it more in the future.
Eagle Island is a thoroughly impressive, high-quality piece of game design made by an incredible, multi-talented, one-man dev studio. I would be astounded if Eagle Island doesn’t earn a wealth of indie dev awards in the year following its release. The labor of love Pixelnicks has finally completed four years after the success of his original Kickstarter campaign is an achievement he and his backers are right to feel immensely proud of! They have reminded us that truly great things can be accomplished when birds of a feather flock together.
Eagle Island game key kindly provided by Screenwave Media.
Aggregated Score: 8.6
Angie the Backlog Crusader Mage can be found over on Backlog Crusader writing Nintendo Switch reviews, running gaming blogger collaborations, rambling about video game culture topics, and slaying her insane backlog of Switch titles. She is on Facebook here and Twitter here.
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Categories: Game Review