After the past year's spate of survival TV shows, it's no real surprise to find the original castaway, Robinson Crusoe, being wheeled out, dusted down and repackaged for a new audience. Tivola has turned Defoe's much-loved tale into an interactive storybook that provides the starting point for an enjoyable and, at times, frustrating adventure. Martin Jarvis narrates the story of the terrible storm that causes you, the eponymous Crusoe, to become the only survivor to make it to the deserted island - rechristened in Tivola's telling as the Island of Despair.
After a cursory look around the beach and inlet on which you've pitched up, you must head back out to the vessel and start building a raft on which to transport any items that could come in handy. To do this, you'll need to rip out decking planks and saw up mast poles and lash them together. Only then can you start salvaging other booty - but remember, it's a race against time before the ship inevitably slips into its watery grave.
Next, you'll need to find somewhere to set up camp. The storybook provides hints on the best location and comes in handy when you need help with other crucial survival tasks. For instance, you are shown how to use each of the tools in your workshop and how to go about making and firing pottery. As you complete each task, the corresponding picture in the storybook becomes a manipulable 3D object. The storybook changes according to your progress and the march of time, so you'll find your crops grow, baby turtles scurry across the beach where last time you found an adult burying eggs, and the notches on your post marking months spent on the island become more numerous.
Completing a task, such as making crockery or catching a parrot to keep as a pet, makes the pictures in Crusoe's diary turn into animations. In certain places, the text also becomes a jump-off point to return to the action and complete another task to make your time on the island more bearable.
You can jump between the book and locations on the map to rejoin the gameplay, so it's easy to get lost on the Island of Despair. Progress is dependent on the completion of a set of tasks in a specific order, and sometimes the simplest omission, such as failure to click on a hotspot, seems to impede you. Being stuck alone on a desert island may be frustrating, but it has nothing on fruitlessly and repetitively clicking your mouse over a bottle you know you are supposed to be able to pick up. (If only you'd remembered to read the chapter about the bottle's medicinal contents you would have been able to do so.) If you get to this point, you may want to bookmark the game and give yourself a breather.
Take it from me - once you've spent a few hours on your own, you'll be desperate to get to the point at which Man Friday appears out of nowhere and comes to keep you company.
Developer: Tivola Electronic Publishing
Publisher: Tivola Electronic Publishing