I love a good survival/life simulator. Games like Don’t Starve, Harvest Moon and even MineCraft force the player to think quickly and strategically, as they have to carve an existence literally out of nothing in order to live. In Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands, out now on the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC and mobile, the survival sim genre gets some new beats and even a fun little story to wrap around the action on screen, but developer Lemonbomb Entertainment took a cautious approach and defanged what could have been something more.
Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands starts off is a bustling port city where a father and son and a handful of residents are about to embark on a sea voyage to a new land. The player controls the son, who loads the ship up and meets the key figures on the journey before the ship sets sail. On the journey, bad things happen and the crew is washed up on an archipelago of islands. It’s up to the player to reconnect all the main cast, as well as find food and shelter and tools, and the true journey begins.
Stranded Sails pushes the player to explore. It starts off slow with small tasks and quests designed to familiarize you with the first few locations, and then the world opens up to all the possibilities that the game offers. The day/night cycle comes into play, as does the player’s energy. Resting and eating are both important, and getting a good home base set up with crops and the ability to cook and make tools is paramount to expanding the game world contained within the confines of the group of islands.
As the game progresses, and the world gets wider, the player will come across caves and areas to explore that offer treasure hunting and danger, breaking up the monotony of the day-to-day farming and gathering. Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands is never short on something for the player to do.
While the puzzles and mysteries aren’t all that deep, and dangers of the island — including some fun supernatural elements with ghost pirates! — serve more as a hindrance than a real threat, the true core here is in building a new life with surviving crew of the ship. The main goal is the rebuild your ship and get back on your journey across the sea, but the real journey is happening every day on the mysterious archipelago.
Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands looks pretty good on the Switch, and the fact that it can be played on the go as well as on the big screen is a selling point, for sure. The graphics are rather cartoonish, but it adds to the charm. I found myself playing this to relax, taking a break from the more intense action games on the Switch to just have fun and live a second life on these islands.
There are some drawbacks to the game. Stranded Sails is very much family friendly, so don’t expect any of the darker elements to be much of a challenge, and unfortunately, the crew lacks personality, even with the great voice acting. They serve solely to give you quests and there’s never really any chance to build relationships outside of the tasks they give.
Because of this, you often feel alone in the game as you do your day-to-day chores. If you are looking for a Sea of Thieves-type of experience here, move along. This is a life simulator first and foremost, and farming, cooking, and gathering takes center stage over the spotty combat and weak puzzle solving.
I found lots to enjoy in Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands, even if, at times, I wished there was more to it. The life-sim aspects work particularly well, and again, it’s a calming, relaxing time-killer which serves that purpose well. The drive to not only explore every island and uncover every secret is there, but so is the joy of creating new foods and finding new things to farm and new tools and items to craft. Stranded Sails doesn’t reinvent the genre, but it works within the established confines, creating a fun and relaxing gaming experience, one which overcomes the few issues present in the game.
Stranded Sails – Explorers Of The Cursed Islands is available now for the Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Steam, and mobile. This review is based off the Nintendo Switch version and a code provided by the publisher.