Bliss Island is another game on the growing list of online freeware games ported to Xbox Live Arcade. Unfortunately, it's not worth paying for Bliss Island because it has about as much to do with bliss as ketchup does with ice cream.
The game has you playing as zwoophs, which are fuzzy Q*bert-looking animals that use precision puffs of air to create clouds. Apparently, cloud creating is awfully hard work, so the zwoophs take a day off each week to relax and play a few games. These games come in the form of seven poorly paced, frustrating minigames.
The single-player portion includes two modes. There is an adventure mode that forces you to complete each unforgiving minigame before moving on to the next, as well as a challenge mode that lets you play any of the games on one of the three difficulty levels. With only seven games, all of which are unlocked from the start in challenge mode, you can see all the game has to offer in less than an hour.
Each minigame has a simple one-button control scheme where the tap of a button shoots a small puff of air. This puff of air is used in various ways throughout the game. One minigame has you guiding fruit into the mouth of a furry monster, while another has you steering a zwooph through a treacherous obstacle course. A couple of them even involve some light platform-jumping. The game throws in a number of genres, but none of them is executed well.
The main culprit for the lack of bliss in Bliss Island is poor pacing. It can be fun racing a bumblebee around an island while dodging obstacles--but not for nine laps. The same goes for feeding a monster 50 pieces of fruit. Some of the minigames aren't terrible; they just go on for too long. In addition to the pacing issues, most levels are irritatingly difficult. You're only offered three chances to beat the five stages of each game. If you strike out, it's back to stage one; no checkpoints, continues, or restarts. The minigames all have the feel of short Internet distractions padded and stretched in an attempt to create a fuller experience.
There are no options to play locally on the same console, but if you can find someone else with the game, you can play three minigames online, one of which isn't offered in the single-player mode. However, the online games suffer from the same pacing and difficulty issues of the single-player version. So unless you're into frustration with a friend, there's no reason to explore the multiplayer.
The underwhelming graphics contribute to the feeling that this game doesn't belong on the Xbox 360. A border surrounds the screen during gameplay, presumably to mask the fact that the low-resolution textures weren't meant for a high-definition widescreen. The menu and instruction-screen illustrations look like the loud, in-your-face pictures seen on the back of generic cereal boxes. The sound effects and music are equally generic, like something you'd hear on a cruise ship commercial. As for achievements: With the exception of a few easy multiplayer points, most of the achievements require a lot of work and a surplus of patience to acquire.
Bliss Island is a game without an audience. Casual players will be turned off by the difficulty, while more hardcore players will scoff at the paltry offering of minigames and lack of customization. Don't be fooled by the cheap 400 point price or misleading name. Bliss Island isn't anywhere that you want to visit.