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Malayalam – Island of Mysteries is a puzzle adventure video game developed by MJK Games in 2007-2008, and released as freeware for PC/Windows in November 10, 2008. The game is a vague crossover between a Robinson Crusoe-themed survival game and a mysterious adventure similar to the Lost (TV series), presented in a cartoonesque style with hand-drawn graphics and animation.
The player controls a character named Thomas Paine, a 34-year old fisherman, who has shipwrecked somewhere in the Eastern Indian Ocean. He drifts onto an unknown desert island named Malayalam, where the adventure takes place. The initial goal for the player is to stay alive and secure sufficient living conditions to enable further progress in the game. This involves finding food, hunting, constructing tools, building shelters, sleeping, and other everyday activities on the island.
The second goal is about solving quests, which are often some sort of puzzle or riddle presented to the player in form of pergaments and bottle posts. In these, the player needs to seek solutions using objects or information he has discovered on the island. The ultimate goal is to solve all missions on the island, and find a way off.
The game awards Malayalam Points for each day survived and for each quest solved. Players can compete with each other in an online high score table, which ranks every contender by the number of Malayalam Points earned. Other than that, Malayalam – Island of Mysteries is purely a single-player game.
Most of the gameplay is about exploration of unknown areas. In order to either survive or solve quests, the player needs to wander around the island and explore different regions. The scale of exploration is dependent on how the player decides to play the game; if he concentrates on survival and everyday living, a smaller playing area and less exploration is required. But when the goal is to solve as many quests as possible and reach the ultimate goal of finding a way off the island, dozens of different regions need to be investigated.
The player moves around the island by walking from one region to another, or teleporting over multiple regions at once by using a teleport. Quests are read by walking over a pergament or a bottle post. It's up to the player to decide which quests to accept and when, so the gameplay is relatively dynamic in this regard. Three quests can be accepted and worked on simultaneously. When quests are completed, Malayalam Points and sometimes additional reward objects are given to the player.
The island of Malayalam is roughly 3 km square in real size and 50,000 x 50,000 pixels on the computer screen, and comprises roughly 120 unique regions. There are basically five main types of terrain on the island: jungle, forest, desert, savannah and "mud". Each has its own set of notes, pergaments, bottle posts, buildings, objects and animals. The player can freely explore any of them at any given time, but it's more effective to start from the middle of the island and proceed outward later on.
The game begins at the center of the island in a region called Kozhencherry. This region features four quests; 'First Meal', 'Shelter', 'Jane's Message' and 'The Menhir Whispers'. Kozhencherry also has the first two buildings in the game: Hatch #1 in a small southwestern island, and Cabin #2 in the North. Together with several of its neighbouring regions, Kozhencherry provides the player with sufficient objects to construct some essential tools and assets for himself, including a rod, an axe, a shelter, a cannon and a slingshot.
Quests & Notes
The game contains almost 200 quests and missions spread over the island. Each region has 1-4 quests, which can be either normal or time-limited. In time-limited quests, the player needs to solve the task inside the given time, measured in game's own time system and not in real time. Three missions can be worked on simultaneously but only one of these can be a time-limited mission. Quests can be roughly divided in the following groups:
Find certain objects based on clues Find certain locations based on clues Solve a riddle or a task by entering the correct answer in a building Decrypt a secret code Sacrifice an animal Perform an activity using tools Collect, combine and utilize information Other
The difficulty level of the quests varies greatly. The first quest, 'First Meal', is representative of the easiest tasks on the island, in which the player just needs to kill a crab, one of game's harmless animals, and eat it. By contrast, some of the harder missions are multiphased problem solving puzzles, where the player needs to spend a lot of time and effort. Each quest has a score weight of 1-10, meaning that the basic score for solving a task (100 Malayalam Points) will be multiplied by this weight. Usually, the easier quests reward the player with only 100 or 200 MP's whereas the harder ones award 500 MP's or more.
The game has dozens of objects that the player can interact with. Each of them can be picked up, added to the inventory and carried around. Some can be combined with other objects, and food items, naturally, are edible.
Here are two examples of how important objects form a chain of activities in the game:
- Log + axe head = axe -> chop more logs + match = fireplace + food = roasted food - Branch + line = rod + lure = more efficient rod = bigger fish
Shelter is one of the most important assets in the game. It can be constructed from logs and palm leaves anywhere on land where there are no obstacles in the way.
Shelter has multiple advantages: sleeping is faster and the player doesn't catch a flu, unlike sleeping outside. Especially on cold nights, in can be very crucial to have a shelter in which to spend the night (unless there are lots of health pack objects in use that make it possible to take risks with health). Shelter provides safety from many predators and harmful animals like lions, scorpions and snakes. Every food item gives double nutritional values when it's eaten inside the shelter. Food items can also be stored for future use, and they won't vanish, as they do outside the shelter, if placed inside the shelter area. One of shelter's biggest benefits is its healing effect; by spending time in a shelter, the player will regain his health without having to consume health packs. Finally, shelter allows some specific actions to be taken, such as reading a newspaper, which can provide important new knowledge about the island.
Food & Nutrition System
There are 42 food items available in total, which are divided into five nutrition groups: fish, protein, fruit, meat and iron. Fish is the largest group consisting of 20 different fish species, like sardines (small, under 1 kg in weight), salmon (medium, 3-8 kg in weight) and giant gourami (from 25 to even over 100 kg in weight). The player can improve his fishing skills by finding ability objects.
Protein, as the second nutrition group, is gained from eating smaller animals like crabs and turtles. Fruits on the island include bananas, coconuts and oranges. The first two can be shaken from some palm trees, and the latter from some orange trees. Meat is obtained mainly from birds, but also from bigger predators like lions. Iron, the fifth group, includes 11 different mushroom species, of which some eight are edible. Mushrooms are easy to get from the regions where they're available, but many regions, such as the Great Desert, don't have any mushrooms.
The player always has certain nutritional requirements. These can be viewed via the ”Functions” tab's ”Nutrition” button. Nutritional requirements are specific for each nutritional group. For example, if the player has a high requirement for fish, then it's beneficial to start fishing and eat some fish to satisfy the hunger. Of course, the player may eat food items from some other nutrition groups as well, but it can take more time and effort to satisfy the same hunger than with fish. But when the player eats many fish in a row, their nutritional requirement will lower accordingly.
This, in turn, will make other food items relatively more appetizing. In order to survive efficiently, so that time will be left for other activities such as quest solving, it is necessary for the player to monitor nutritional requirements and utilize multiple sources of food throughout the game. Moreover, if many of the nutritional requirements will stay on a high level, this will increase food consumption, so in some cases, even though your nutrition is at maximum, it might be beneficial to still eat to lower the requirements.
Solving The Game
It is possible to beat the game and get off the island. This is the ultimate goal for the player, but it depends on a very complex set of actions and dozens of hours of gameplay. The player first needs to solve the most, but not all, of the quests on the island to activate certain equipment. This equipment must be used to free the island of its "tyrant of centuries", as the game describes the process. Once the island is free, the last chain of tasks is accessible. A quest called "Last Question" appears. Once it is answered correctly, someone will want to meet the player's character. When in the correct place, something will appear after a moment of waiting, and that something enables the player to get off the island.