Restoration Games’ Rob Daviau on the return of Fireball Island

Rob Daviau
“More than a mere board game, it’s a three dimensional adventure” boomed the voice over guy in the ad for Milton Bradley’s 1986 release, Fireball Island.

The game saw players move across the massive island along winding paths, caves and collapsing bridges in a bid to nab Vul-Kar’s jewel and carry it to the escape boat. But, at any moment, adventurers could be wiped out by one of Vul-Kar’s thundering fireballs (read: marbles).

Well, over 30 years have passed, but Fireball Island is about to roll back onto tables thanks to Restoration Games.

Founded by Rob Daviau and Justin Jacobson, the company’s goal is “to find games lost to time and bring them back for another run”, with three stipulations: each game has to have been published in the 60s, 70s, 80s, or 90s; have been out of print for at least 10 years; and each must make you say “oh yeah, I remember that game!”

So far, the firm have successful revamped Stop Thief!, Downforce and Indulgence, and now Fireball Island is getting the Restoration Games treatment, with Fireball Island: The Curse of Vul-Kar available to back on Kickstarter.

We caught up with Restoration Games’ chief restoration officer, Rob Daviau, to find out more about the development process behind The Curse of Vul-Kar, and how the game can live up to players’ rose-tinted memories of the original.

What made Fireball Island ripe for the Restoration Games treatment?
It was our number one requested game by a lot! Seems like this game hits a lot of nostalgia buttons for people in their thirties and forties. It’s also has such table presence. People can’t help but come over and look at what’s going on. But that just makes it a good game for a reprint. Restorations are a little different and this one worked as well. The original gameplay was perfect for its time and for its audience but we felt like we could modernise the gameplay while we were also redesigning the island itself.

What are some of the key areas of the original game that you’re looking to turn up to 11 for The Curse of Vul-Kar?
The marbles. We made the island higher, which makes the marbles go faster, which leads to more kinetic mayhem. We also introduced branching paths and unpredictability to the paths so marbles don’t go the exact same way every time. We wanted to make each marble launch feel dramatic, that you were compelled to watch each time. When you drop a marble through Vul-Kar, you are looking at nearly 7” of vertical drop down to the bottom. The marbles can really get going.

Was there much collaboration with the creators of the original game?
We’ve been keeping [co-designer] Bruce Lund apprised of our progress, sending him updates, pictures, and rules thoughts. He’s given us his blessing (most of the time) and a few notes here and there.

Without actually including a pair of rose-tinted glasses in the box, how much of a challenge is it to ensure the game lives up to consumers’ memories of playing the original?
That’s been tough. We have to make the game as big as you remember it being, which meant making it bigger. We also had to make it as fun as you remember, which meant making it fun for an adult without making it complicated. Our goal was to keep the heart of it the same (knock over other people with marbles) but somehow feel fresh and modern.

And a few words from Bruce Lund, co-designer of the original Fireball Island…

Where did the idea for Fireball Island come from?
A 3D vacuum formed map of America

How has your approach to game development changed in the years since you created Fireball Island?
We try to find something different that has not been used in toys or games, to make something truly new. Doggie Doo is a recent example, and many others of our successful games years past have similar unique qualities.

What do you think of the new Restoration Games version?
We are delighted!

Check out the new Fireball Island over at Kickstarter, here.

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