Eagle Island is a 2d platform game developed by Pixelnicks and published by Screenwave Media available on PC and Switch. The game features beautiful pixel graphics, nice sound design and simple but engaging gameplay. As in most games of the genre you run through scenarios composed of independent screens, destroying enemies with the help of a cute owl. To traverse the different zones you can jump, climb, swim and more while collecting coins and items to help you in this adventure. Platform games can be difficult to play to gamers with disabilities but here is where this game shines from the start.
In this review I’ll comment on the accessibility for people with reduced mobility and I will also show all the other options without going deep into them. I played on PC using mouse and keyboard.
First of all the menus, inventory and all can be navigated using the mouse, keys or gamepad.
In Graphic Settings you can adjust the usual Display mode, change the resolution and such. The option Aim Guide will display crosshair and a line of dots to help when aiming.
Audio Settings has separate volume sliders for Music and Sound Effects as well as an option for the game to emit a beeping sound when your health is low. No subtitles options though but as you will see later they are always on.
Controls allows full key remapping for all movement and action keys. There are only 10 keys to use. These remapped keys work not just during gameplay but also in menus and other screens which is always an excellent feature. Pause/Menu is currently hardcoded to Escape and Tab. I hope it becomes remappable in the future as it is very necessary.
You can also remap the gamepad controls. Both the D-pad and buttons can be remapped although you can’t assign movement functions to ABXY buttons.
The UI Settings customize the amount of information displayed during gameplay. Gamepad Display changes the way control inputs and information is presented by allowing to choose between many different types of controller types. It includes Xbox One, Xbox 360, Dualshock, Switch, SNES and SNES US format.
GIF Recorder allows to create animated GIFs of your gameplay. It’s not an accessibility feature, just a cool one I won’t detail here.
At last we arrive at the Accessibility options which are divided into three different categories.
In Visuals we find options intended for people with cognitive or visual difficulties. Dim backdrop, with values from 0 to 100% with 20% increases, will make the game backgrounds darker making the gameplay relevant parts more visible. Disable lighting removes all light effects. Outline characters and Outline platforms add a white outline to the characters and platforms in the game to make them stand out more. Disable screenshake is quite self-explanatory as it is Reduce flashing.
In Screen reader we find options for people with visual difficulties. You can activate it to make all menu options you highlight and in-game text be read using Text-To-Speech. Screen reader rate controls the speed text is read, allowing both to speed it up or down. Volume adjusts the volume of the read text voice.
In the Controls section we find different settings to help people with mobility difficulties, like me. Auto aim willl make the character aim at the closest enemy, eliminating the need to press a direction to select your target. Enable mouse control allows to aim using the mouse cursor, fire with the left button and change our feather/weapon using the right button. Disable gamepad and Disable vibration do exactly as their name imply. Use right stick lets you use the right stick instead of the left one to control movement. And last we have a Game speed, with values from 50% to 100% with 10% increases, that adjust the speed of gameplay really making a difference. This function is key to this game’s accessibility.
How to Play
- To move you use four directions, using your defined keys, the D-pad or the thumbsticks. To jump you just press the corresponding key/button of your choice and the direction you want to jump. Holding down longer makes you jump more. When you cling to a platform border pressing left or right, depending on where the platform is, makes you climb onto it.
- For making your loyal owl companion attack enemies you hold the aim key/button and select the direction of your target using the same directional controls as before. You can also use your mouse to aim or activate Auto aim to make it even more simple. To switch between feathers/weapons you can hold down the corresponding key/button and press left or right. Additionally you can just tap the Feather left /Feather right to cycle through them or use the right mouse button.
- To trade coins for items, talk with characters and the perform other interactions you just tap the up key/button once. All menus for buying / selecting items from your inventory are easy to navigate with both mouse or gamepad and use your defined control scheme. The only limitation is that the mouse doesn’t allow you to go back.
Conclusions and issues
I must say the game has surprised me very positively. The graphic style is cute and colourful, reminding me of books for kids and the story and characters give a fun and relaxing atmosphere. It has been years since I played a platform game of this style due to dexterity and precision required in many of them but here those issues are greatly mitigated.
For starters you can change the overall difficulty by having more life, more frequent rewards, better drops and other factors to make the experience more friendly. This doesn’t make the game any less fun or challenging. And the good range of accessibility options to adjust the game speed, remap all the keys, auto aim… are very helpful. I can’t speak for the visual and cognitive options but many of them remind me of things requested in other games by players with those types of needs. Is the game perfect? No, but it is very accessible.
As with other games there small things to nitpick but nothing game-breaking. Remapping keys makes you enter them all in sequence and if you mess up once you will have to do them all again. Luckily the controls are very few so it is not a big issue but maybe could be improved. I think an option to make aim a toggle instead of a hold would really help a lot. Same goes for holding down the feather selector, although the existence of two other keys to cycle with a tap makes it a valid alternative. Having a way to go back in menus using the right mouse button would also help. As always being able to remap the Menu key is necessary. Right now it can be done by editing the .ini file but the developer mentioned it was on the to-do list. And this is something to note because Pixelnick, the developer, is very open to feedback and making adjustments which is always encouraging.
Usually at this point, there would be many negative things to mention but as you can see this is not the case. The game could have been a nightmare to play but the wide range of accessibility options made it a joy instead. I hope other developers, especially the big studios who keep releasing games that lack even the most basic options, take note and learn from this great title.
Antonio I. Martinez is 42 and has been a gamer his whole life. He has SMA Type 3 and can be found on Twitter at @Black1976
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