FMV games come in all shapes and sizes. Some are fairly straightforward and just require you to make choices to impress potential love interests. Others are more complex, and involve adventure game style puzzles and a whole lot of thinking. People may have different preferences, but I’m happy to sample all of these live action delights whenever Wales Interactive release a new one. The Isle Tide Hotel is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, but more than anything is incredibly odd and very difficult to understand from the outset.
There isn’t a whole lot of explanation given when you start The Isle Tide Hotel. You play as a man called Josh who is on the way to the titular hotel to try and rescue his kidnapped daughter. That’s the most grounded the game will be for the entire time you play. For those opening sixty seconds you’re all sweet and innocent, without any idea quite how messed up everything is about to get.
The Isle Tide Hotel is home to a sort of cult, who are all about new experiences and living life to the fullest. That all sounds well and good, but the way that they do that isn’t particularly ethical. For spoiler reasons I can’t get into the specifics, but for the majority of your first playthrough both you and Josh will be totally in the dark of what the secret of this group truly is.
Everyone in the hotel you talk to uses so many mysterious words and phrases that it feels like they’re talking another language. You’ll be asked what you got up to this “term” and which “suit” you want to try on, which are words which don’t mean what you think they do. Honestly it makes the first playthrough of the game a lot less enjoyable, because you don’t have a clue what’s going on and alongside that the pacing is glacial.
Every single scene of The Isle Tide Hotel just takes way longer than it should, usually because you’ll have to watch Josh slowly walking down a corridor or gingerly picking up an item before you actually get to see what happens next. Especially in your first playthrough or two when you can’t skip any smaller cutscenes (because you haven’t seen them yet) it just drags out the whole experience into something that’s honestly fairly miserable to play.
If you can persevere though, there are a whole lot of interesting discoveries to be made in the Isle Tide Hotel. When you start to piece together what’s happening you’ll be blown away with the overall story being told, and the amount of times I gasped at certain moments was pretty impressive. A specific ending in particular changed everything I thought I knew about Josh as a whole, and really was an incredible thing to experience.
In terms of actual gameplay, the majority of your stay at the Isle Tide Hotel will involve you selecting conversation options and choosing which characters you want to help. The story plays out totally differently based on these decisions, and multiple playthroughs are a must if you want to find out the spiciest secrets of this intriguing game.
As well as picking how to react to characters, there are also multiple actual puzzles in the game that need solving. They aren’t usually that difficult (figuring out which Rorschach test corresponds to which emotion for example) but they provide a bit of a break from the strictly narrative parts of the game.
The final thing that’s worth mentioning about The Isle Tide Hotel is the length of the game. A single playthrough only lasts around an hour, and especially after the first couple of these you’ll be finishing runs twice as fast thanks to the skip button. I felt like I’d seen everything I wanted after four playthroughs, totaling a little under three hours of playtime. Especially taking into account that the pacing and confusion of my first run making it much less enjoyable, the overall time you can spend on this game is more than a little disappointing.
The Isle Tide Hotel has some fantastic moments and a truly intriguing story, but so much of it is clouded by the initial confusion and horrendous pacing. I’m really glad I stuck it out long enough to uncover some of the wondrous secrets within, but I’d struggle in good conscience to recommend others do the same based on how quickly it’s over.
A very intriguing FMV game
Lots of twists and turns in the story
Gets better the more you play
Really slow paced, especially early on
Very confusing at the start
Not a lot of content when you get past the worst part of the game