Two people are standing in a hallway. To the left and slightly behind is a brown-haired man wearing a white dress shirt, beige robe, and a black mask covering his eyes and nose. To the right, and slightly to the front, is a brown-haired woman with a black tank top, a beige robe, and a fox mask covering her eyes and nose.

Review: The Isle Tide Hotel (Sony PlayStation 4)

Giving off a bit of a creepy vibe.

9 mins read

If your estranged daughter was missing and likely in danger, what would you be willing to do in an attempt to save her? This question is the backbone of The Isle Tide Hotel, the latest FMV game from Wales Interactive. Yes, Wales Interactive does more than FMV games, though the genre does seem to be its most chosen in recent years. And I’m not complaining; from The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker to Ten Dates, I’ve played every one and quite enjoyed nearly all of them. That creates a sort of expectation for any upcoming game, so my main concern going into The Isle Tide Hotel is whether or not it’s as good as I expect it to be. And good news: I wasn’t disappointed.

The Isle Tide Hotel follows a man – Josh – whose daughter Eleanor has been taken by a cult, who is keeping her at the Isle Tide Hotel during their triennial meetup. His daughter is basically a stranger to him, yet he jumps into action when he learns of her disappearance from a private investigator, Price. Josh will have to jump through hoops, sometimes with Price and sometimes alone (depending on the narrative branch), to rescue his daughter. The game is quite suspenseful and always unsettling. The only way to truly understand the story from all directions is to play multiple times, meeting new people and solving different dilemmas. I do wish I could talk about it a bit more past that, but to do so really would spoil multiple paths.

While the cast is quite large, I’d argue Josh and Price are the two leads. Josh is played by Michael D. Xavier, and of all the characters his shows the most range of emotion. The acting is sometimes a tinge over-the-top, but I have come to expect some of that flavour from most FMV games (Wales Interactive or otherwise). My favourite character is Price, played by Jemima Rooper; unlike Xavier, I knew of her in advance as she starred in the 2022 mini-series Flowers in the Attic: The Origin and some other things I’ve seen in the past (like The Black Dahlia and The F Word). Price seems tough and gruff on the outside, but on the inside she’s got some unresolved trauma that keeps her pushing forward through adversity. Another standout is the Grand Elect, the cult’s second in command. Played by Joni Aston-Kent (The Watch), she’s got this flat affect that makes her kind of creepy. To say all characters are unique is an understatement – some of them are downright weird.

The gameplay is pretty standard for an FMV game. It’s all about selecting from given choices. Mostly, it’s choosing how to respond to others or where to go. Where it gets interesting is when it’s used in a puzzle kind of way. At one point, you have to unlock a box using three tiles. First, you have to choose where to look to find the tiles. Then you need to select which tile goes in which labelled space in order for the box to pop open. This is where the game steers away from its usual “interactive film” and a bit more towards “point and click adventure.” It doesn’t happen often, but it’s a delight when it does.

The Isle Tide Hotel features a branching narrative, and each playthrough can end up quite differently than others. While Josh is always the lead, in others you barely (if even) see Price. Instead, someone else may become Josh’s companion. For example, Jordan needs Josh to get a petition through, and will do anything to repay him if it works out. So there are actually multiple paths to saving (or failing to save) Eleanor. Some paths are pretty straightforward, with minimal environmental puzzles; others require a lot of legwork to complete. I find that the paths can vary significantly from one another, which I quite like. I’ve had some wildly different experiences with a single game.

In Mia and the Princess Dragon (another Wales Interactive FMV game; you can read my review here), there was a little map so you can see where the story breaks into two or more different paths. This was really helpful when trying to see it all. The Isle Tide Hotel unfortunately doesn’t have this map, but it has something similar in its directory. The directory includes readables (plain text versions of written in-game items), story (the most useful), and objects (a 3D look at found items). The story directory is the most helpful, as it shows the main paths that can be taken then breaks it down in each. That’s not to say each path is one playthrough, as it will take at least two playthroughs (usually more) to completely fill out one section. As is often the case, previously seen scenes can be skipped, cutting down the time on repeat plays when you’re trying to get to that one place and choose another path.

A screenshot from The Isle Tide Hotel. A man wearing a white dress shirt and black slacks is standing in a hotel room with three options: search the desk, search the bathroom, and search the bed.

The visuals in The Isle Tide Hotel are definitely appealing, in large part due to symmetry and parallel lines. It’s just pleasing to look at, and vaguely reminds me of Wes Anderson films. The colours are neither muted or enhanced; rather, they seem quite natural. The soundtrack is well-suited to the story at hand, but it also just kind of fades into the background. So while it’s decent, it’s also not very memorable.

The settings are pretty standard for an FMV game. There’s a “streamer mode” available that pauses options so streamers can take their time if viewers are chiming in; I find it useful because sometimes it takes me an extra beat to take things in and I don’t want the game to be deciding for me. For those that want subtitles, there are several options. The size can be switched between small, medium, and large. The background colour can be off, white, or black. Even the text colour can be changed to white, black, blue, yellow, and green. Unfortunately, there’s something missing when it comes to subtitles: the ability to change the font. For me, it doesn’t matter so much. For others, it could mean the difference between picking up the game or moving past it.

The Isle Tide Hotel is a visually striking, unsettling FMV game with a memorable cast. Its gameplay is generally par for the course, as are its settings, but its really the story and the variety of branching paths that make it memorable. It doesn’t feel like a chore to discover new paths. While I can’t spoil any of the story branches, it’s worth noting that I didn’t encounter a single unenjoyable one in six of seven playthroughs. The characters you encounter all seem a bit… off… in the best possible way, and some are more nuanced than others. I’ll definitely be revisiting the game soon.

Lindsay picked up an NES controller for the first time at the age of 6 and instantly fell in love. She began reviewing GBA games 20 years ago and quickly branched out from her Nintendo comfort zone. She has has developed a great love of life sims and FMV titles. For her, accessibility is one of the most important parts of any game (but she also really appreciates good UI).

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