Donut Games' Traps n Gemstones was an exemplary mobile metroidvania, impressing through both its smart level design and pulp adventure atmosphere.
Vulture Island may trade that adventurer for marooned survivors, but the well-crafted design and retro charm remains.An island getaway
While Vulture Island isn't a metroidvania, surprisingly it transplants many of that genre's aspects to the Mario-inspired platformer. You enter levels from an overworld map, with each character having their own unique route to travel. Within those levels are NPCs to talk with and rescue, items to find or buy, and secret areas to explore.
But furthermore, you can't always complete a level on your first attempt. Much like a metroidvania, you'll need to find items in other levels to help you get past their obstacles, ranging from an impassable wall of flame or a cage that must be opened.
In many way, Vulture Island can feel like a adventure game as you gather items to please NPCs and open paths.
This creates an interesting pacing; rather than the headlong momentum of your typical precision platformer, Vulture Island wants you to slow down, try different levels and characters, play one then come back later once you've gotten the item you need.Not your everyday retro platformer
But more importantly than the pacing is the moment-to-moment gameplay, and Vulture Island succeeds in that department. Your moveset is simple - left, right, jump, and attack - but it's tight and responsive, letting you deftly leap over and around hazards and enemies. It's the levels themselves that introduce Vulture Island's variety, from the constantly-changing environments ranging pirate ship to the vertical climb up a tree village, to the diverse enemies and hazards such as collapsing islands to a rain of rocks from a cave roof.
You collect coins (and spill them upon injury a la Sonic), but cleverly Vulture Island presents important incentives not to lose those coins beyond the thrill of a high score. Want to buy a new weapon, or pay a balloonist to help you escape the island, or an item to help you reach a new area? You'll need coins, so running and jumping with precision is a must.
Vulture Island succeeds in its colorful charming aesthetic and structure that transforms the typical retro platformer into a web of interconnected items and challenges more akin to an adventure game or metroidvania. However, that nonlinear shift in formula can frustrate, as you enter levels not sure how to proceed or realizing you need to gather other tools to continue.
But if you're seeking a finely tuned platformer that both pays homage to its inspirations and adds its own unique elements into the mix, Vulture Island will suffice.