I love the relaxing and wholesome gaming movement and actively seek out and buy these kinds of games. Isle of Jura places itself front and centre in the wholesome movement by creating a fishing game with very light exploration elements. It is also aimed at a very budget audience which means its accessible but also hamstrung by its reduced scope.
You play as Alex who wants to collect samples for her biology course so she travels to Jura to fish. You’ll have a fishing net to start with and can run around the island, diving into ponds and collecting fish. Once caught, they are added to your logbook and you can sell them to the restaurant owner for cash. After a while, you’ll have enough cash to buy a fishing rod and then upgrades for it and later on fishing weights too for deep sea fishing. As a progression, it works nicely as you can then go further into the surrounding seas of Jura as you progress. The main issue is that its always one rod and a net that you have so you don’t have real flexibility in where to fish.
The game looks lovely. I’m a sucker for lo-poly and this is beautiful – especially the water animations. Less nice are the characters whom all look a bit creepy. Fish are cute though although you only see them on screen for a few seconds. This is because most of the time you’ll watch Alex waiting for a splash or pulling on her rod. The mini game for fishing changes with every upgrade but they all revolve around pressing a trigger button at the right time and keeping a bar within a certain zone on the UI. The problem with this is its too mechanical to engage heavily with but also focuses you on the UI and not the game around you. Nothing really gives away where fish are located or anything like that. Alex just squats and after ten seconds a fish pops up. I think I was looking for more about observing nature around you whereas Isle of Jura is more like a quick time event fest. Fly fishing is really poorly implemented though – I still don’t know exactly what it is I’m supposed to do – it feels a bit random and not very fun.
Isle of Jura has over 50 fish to find, a few artefacts to discover and a couple of residents to talk to. The island itself is designed to pad runtime as you can’t get to anywhere without sometimes running around the island perimeter first. The camera doesn’t help as its fixed – from the outside of the island looking in. I spent more time running into the camera than away from it and that felt clunky. There is one noodling guitar piece that fades in and out over the ocean waves but aside from that, sound is minimal. Making the game feel slower are the animations too. The fishing goes on for too long at every stage but not least when Alex presents her catch to you. There’s a good 7 second delay where you just stare at her before it lets you take back over. This time of slowness plagues setting up your rod or net too.
All of this could probably be rectified and more detail and engaging gameplay added if the price was raised somewhat. This feels like its constrained by its budget price point and ambitions. Its lovely to have a game that’s cheap but oddly Isle of Jura feels like an extended tech demo of part of a bigger game. Games can be cheap and fantastic – take a look at Beasts of Maravilla Island – but even that is almost double this price. I’d love to see this expanded into a bigger sequel but at the moment, only the hardcore relaxed fisherpeeps need apply.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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