Imagine a massive island that drifts across the sky, borne aloft by spinning rotors with artificial clouds hiding it from the Earth dwellers far below. Living on this island are a werewolf, a mummy, an ogre, a vampire, Frankenstein's monster, and the spirit of Dr. Frankenstein himself, who designed the island generations ago as a refuge for the persecuted creatures. Part Hayao Miyazaki-esque fantasy and part cheesy B-movie horror, the setting for The Island of Dr. Frankenstein is rife with magical possibility. But sadly, the gameplay in this bare-bones adventure game is so dull and simplistic that all sense of imagination, as well as all hope of enjoyment, is crushed by sheer tedium.
You play as Frankie, Dr. Frankenstein's young grandnephew who is responsible for keeping the island's engines in working order. It seems that someone is sabotaging those engines and trying to bring the island crashing down. By decree of the island's werewolf king, it falls to Frankie to investigate the plot and bring the saboteur to justice. What at first appears to be an open-and-shut case is soon revealed to be more complicated and more dangerous. While the plot isn't remarkable, the characters that populate it are outlandish and charming. These aren't your typical mummies and ogres; they speak in smart, well-crafted dialogue that will often bring a smile to your face.
But the gameplay will immediately wipe that smile away. Ostensibly, Frankie must act as a kind of detective, solving the mystery behind the plot to sabotage the island. And although he frequently boasts about his detective skills, there's not an ounce of creative thought required to progress nor a moment of puzzle-solving satisfaction. You navigate the island from an overhead perspective, using the nunchuk's thumbstick to move Frankie around. As you talk to the creatures and the colorful human villagers on the island, they'll frequently give you some sort of item. Sooner or later, as you wander around, you'll encounter characters who say something that makes it blatantly obvious that they can use a particular item. So you hand the item to them, they hand you something else in return, and the cycle continues. This constant handing off of items from one character to another makes up the majority of the gameplay. You never need to combine items to make something new, use the items on something in the environment, or anything. This isn't so much an adventure game as a tiresome game about item delivery.
Frankie carries a contraption called a steampack, with which he must suck up the vaporites that hover in swarms about the island. Vaporites are small clouds with eyes that you suck up by pointing the Wii Remote at them and pressing a button. If not kept under control by Frankie, they'll damage the island's engines, causing it to rock dangerously back and forth like a ship on the high seas. Should this happen, a warning will sound indicating that the island is in serious danger, but in fact, you can take all the time in the world as you suck up vaporites to stabilize the island again. Rather than adding any enjoyment to the game, the constant need to stop and suck up vaporites is just a chore.
The final gameplay element is a mechanical minigame. Characters sometimes ask you to fix a watch, an oven, or some other device at which point you're presented with a view of the contraption's innards. A beam of energy shoots out from a certain point, and by placing gears in the beam's path, you can rotate the beam 45 degrees in either direction. In this manner, you need to direct the beam to a goal to bring the machine back to life. It's a sad comment on the quality of this game that these very basic puzzles are the most engaging thing it has to offer. There's literally nothing to the game but running around, vacuuming up vaporites, talking to characters, handing off items, and solving the occasional simple mechanical puzzle. Even the climax just has you running around and solving yet another one of those puzzles under the pressure of a time limit.
The Island of Dr. Frankenstein looks like a relic from another era. The characters and environments are extremely polygonal. When speaking to each other, characters have unchanging expressions plastered on their faces, and they repeat the same canned animations. There's imagination in the concept of the island--in its towering castle and the huge spinning engines that keep it aloft--but the visuals don't do much to bring that imagination to life. The music is excruciatingly repetitive, and sound effects are nearly nonexistent. Parents should also be aware that, in addition to being a thoroughly bad game, it includes a moment of foul language. Despite the E rating on the box, Frankie twice utters a common curse word. The game places a "P" at the beginning of it, but there's no denying that it's still the same word that would earn most games a stricter rating.
At about six hours, this game drags on for about six hours too long. There's no replay value here, either. Once you finish the game, clicking your save file just displays the words "Thank You For Playing" on the screen. But do yourself a favor and don't play this game. Even at its bargain price, this game can still rob you of your time and give you very little of value in return.