Tag Archives: scicomm

Animal Crossing: Where is my new Horizon?

The latest game in the Animal Crossing franchise, New Horizons became a massive success when released in March earlier this year. The combination of a large fan base and a perfectly timed release just before a global lockdown due to COVID that saw many stuck at home with little to do (a little suspicious) saw the game take the podium as the best-selling game on the Nintendo Switch. 

Within the game the player takes control of a human avatar that buys a vacation package from a talking racoon. What originally starts off as nothing more than a camping holiday on a deserted island soon develops into a vibrant town with permanent residents, a town hall, museum and monuments to spare.

Having spent a vast number of hours myself running around my own island paradise, my mind has often gone off wondering itself. One question that often crops up is ‘where would this island actually be in the real world?’ 

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Where in the world are we?

To some this maybe an easy question to answer. Given the game’s Nintendo origins, one could easily assume the island is found somewhere off the coast of Japan. With Japanese themed furniture such as the Imperial set, zen pits and autographed cards written in Japanese to back as evidence. Alongside every Islander’s obsession with making their own bamboo garden (guilty), it is a very safe bet. 

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My hilltop bamboo garden

However, the game also has other furniture sets and items to appease its global range of players. And the bamboo gardens are player optional. I just haven’t found a friend who hasn’t dedicated a section to their island yet to the green shoots. So, if we are to be able to say where exactly in the world our island is, we shall need more substantial evidence.

Such evidence can be found on display in your local island museum (if you’ve donate it that is…)! Well, in three of the four rooms that is… While the art donatable to Blathers is based off of famous irl examples, they are all obtained from sales with Jolly/Crazy Redd (or the odd rare present from neighbours). How he gets hold of these priceless works of art is anyone’s guess. However, the one thing that is certain is they aren’t acquired legally. More importantly for our question at hand, they are unlikely to be sourced locally! 

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Bugs to the left, fish to the right, fossils straight down the middle. Ignore the upstairs and welcome to my museum!

The bugs, fish, (newly added) sea critters and fossils on the other hand all naturally spawn on your island for you to catch/find and donate, thus allowing them to be classed as ‘locally sourced’. Seeing as all of these animals, both living and extinct, are examples of themselves in the real world, by finding out where each one is found in the world, we can plot up maps to determine where the most likely location is for our island. 

If the game is purely based in Japan, then all the creatures would come from there. However, Animal Crossing is a prime example of an educational COTS game. That is, Commercial-Off-The-Shelf game. For those who actually say yes to Blather and listen to his facts about each and every donation made, you can learn a lot about all of the wonderful species. With the franchise having a massive global audience and the world being full of amazing creatures, it would be a shame to not include some non-native species. Therefore, we can already say it is most likely going to be a case of best fit instead of being a sure-fire location. 

As much as he hates talking about the bugs they do have some very interesting facts, so suck it up Blathers!

Starting off

The first thing we have to realise is that this is a fictional game. While Animal Crossing does incorporate a lot of real-world aspects into it, from catchable creatures to architectural styles, at the end of the day it is just a game. 

As said above, the world is full of a lot of amazing animals, and so it would be a shame for the developers of Animal Crossing to just stick with those native to a single location. Many of the weird, wonderful and valuable (I’ve got to be able to afford new furniture somehow) species would never be included if some of the laws of reality weren’t bent a little. So, we can’t really hold it against Nintendo for including these species when commercial video games are designed primarily for entertainment and only sometimes for education.

And this is certainly the case with endemic species. These are ones that are only found in a singular localised area or country, and there are a few examples in New Horizons. The Golden Trout for example is only found in the American state of California. The Arapaima (the world’s largest freshwater fish), Piranha, and Angelfish are only found in the Amazon Basin. Bug species such as the Madagascan Sunset Moth is endemic to Madagascar (shockingly), and there is also the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing and Blue Weevil Beetle, both endemic to Papua New Guinea.    

Therefore, when trying to locate our island paradise I will be using a tally system for all the species, giving one point per country if the creature can be found there and plotting the tally up on a map. This way I ignore all endemic species and aim for a best fit location. 

*Disclaimer* If a species was said to be found on a continent and did not specify the exact country, every country gained one count to its tally. Therefore, some countries may have a higher count then they actually should. However, the numbers will be close enough to work with.

Also, for some reason the maps I created using Excel wouldn’t let me plot data in some countries for some reason. Sorry to Honduras, Slovakia and a few others, but that is just Excel being Excel. 

Freshwater Fish

Starting off with the freshwater fish found swimming through the rivers and ponds on the island. In total there are 46 species of fish that can be caught throughout the year with many changing from season to season.

Looking at the map below the darker the shade of blue the higher the proportion of the 46 fish can be found in that country. Four species (Kilifish, Tadpole, Frogs and Catfish) have a near worldwide distribution, and so gave a point to every country. Despite this, there is a very global variation shown on the map as some fish are only found in singular states, regions or countries.

This is a clear sign we will be aiming for a best fit location. The best candidates so far based on their total tally of freshwater fish are Japan (19), China (16), Korea (15), USA (14) and Canada (12). From these scores its looking like the island is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean with the highest concentrations being in East Asia or North America. 

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Distribution map of all freshwater fish found on our AC island

Ocean Fish

Seeing as the freshwater fish suggest a Pacific island location, it’s time to see if the 34 ocean-dwelling fish agree! 

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The new ocean aquariums are awesome in this game! Hey hammerhead!

Just like the freshwater fish there are some species such as Seahorses, Sea Butterflies and Football Fish that have a near worldwide distribution. There are also some with much more local distributions. Red Snappers for example are only found in the Gulf of Mexico. Coelacanths are even more localised, having only been found in very small pockets off the coast of South Africa, Madagascar and Indonesia, but nowhere else in all the seas! However, some are also native to the waters around Japan (e.g. Moray eels, Barred Knifejaws & Japanese Horse Mackerels). 

Tallying the scores, the oceans with the highest proportions are the Pacific Ocean (12) and Atlantic and Indian Oceans (both with 6). Seeing as the Pacific Ocean has twice the count as the next runners up its definitely looking to be a winning spot. We can then use seas and oceanic regions to narrow down a location further, as the freshwater fish suggests a location either side of this vast ocean. There were 3 counts in the Indo-Pacific, a collection of waters ranging from the Pacific to Indonesia, India and across to E. Africa. Another 3 previously mentioned around Japan only. And 2 counts in the Yellow Sea off the coast of China and Korea. 

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Distribution map of all sea fish found in the coast of our AC island

So, an island off the coast of Japan, China, Korea or the Philippines is looking to be a very hot spot. But that is not all the seas have to offer for evidence. Animal Crossing’s latest update (v1.3) has given us full access to the ocean waters via wetsuits! Now we can jump and flip right in to the deep for more critters to donate to Blathers! 

Deep-Sea Critters

The latest swimming update was another perfectly timed delivery from Nintendo. Just when we had all started to put the game down after catching all we could and paying off as much of our loan as we could be bothered, the new update gave us 40 new ‘deep-sea critters’ to swim around and catch!

In terms of data, that’s 40 new points to tally up and see if they correspond with the current fishy conclusion…

And thankfully it does! Just like the ocean fish before, the deep-sea critters have the highest concentrations in the Pacific Ocean (7) out of the three oceans (Atlantic had 2 and Indian had just 1). Furthermore, there were a staggering 8 species (e.g. Gigas giant clams, Slate pencil urchins and Mantis shrimps) are found in the Indo-Pacific. 

Sea pineapples, Japanese Spider crabs and some species of Horseshoe crabs are also only found in the waters around Japan, Korea, Taiwan and China, including the Yellow Sea and East China Sea. Together a total of 34 of the 40 deep-sea species are found in the waters off of the eastern/ south-eastern coasts of Asia, making for very compelling evidence.

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Distribution map of the deep-sea critters caught while swimming in the waters around our AC island

However, why just use water creatures to pin down a location when we also have bugs and fossils? After all, the more evidence you have the more solid the conclusion.


The bugs in Animal Crossing breath a lot of needed life onto the surface of the island. All of the fish and critters mentioned above simply appear as dark outlines under the water. You can make an educated guess at what the fish will be, but you won’t know for sure until you haul it out of the water. Bugs on the other hand can be found scuttling on the ground, flying through the air or just chilling on a tree. The diverse range of settings you can find them in means there is a wide variety for you to catch (many of which are worth a few bells and so can help to pay that ever-increasing loan off), including butterflies, dragonflies, stag beetles, diving beetles, pesky wasps and even dreaded scorpions.

Despite this great range in catchable creepy crawlies, the tally map actually shows a reduced global range than the freshwater fish did! Out of the 80 species found on the in-game island, 51 of these are found irl in Japan. 47 are found in China and 45 are found in Korea. The incredibly high number is mostly due to 18 species such as flies and ants being found worldwide. However, most of the countries outside of SE Asia, even with the worldwide assist, only score in the mid 20s, giving them a paler shade of green. 

Distribution map of the insects caught on our AC island

With the fish and now the bugs suggesting a East Asian location close to Japan, it is getting hard to argue as to where our sandy shores will be…


Last but not least we have the ancient fossils! Fossils in Animal Crossing randomly spawn at the start of each day, forming brown star-shaped cracks in the ground for you to dig up with a shovel. However, you won’t know what kind of fossil you have dug up until you get it checked and verified by Blathers at the museum. Once Blathers has excitedly given them a quick look over, he will inform you as to whether you have given him an entire small fossil, or a part of a much larger creature. Side note, this is fairly realistic as you are more likely to find dinosaur fossils fragmented than as a complete collection (although that is not to say it isn’t impossible).  

That being said, they definitely throw a curveball into the idea of a Japanese island location as the vast majority of the 35 fossil species are actually found in North America. Not since the freshwater fish at the start did it seem possible that we could have an American island. 

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Distribution map of the fossils dug up on our AC island

The main reason for the high concentration of fossils appearing to be from North America is because many of the well known and loved dinosaurs such as the Stegosaurus, Triceratops and the infamous T-rex are found within the Mesozoic deposits here, particularly within Texas and surrounding states in the US. 

There are also some species which are only found in European countries. The renowned bird fossil of Archaeopteryx has only been discovered in Germany and Portugal. The Dorset Coast of England is famed for its Plesiosaurus fossils, and even the possibility of a living species hiding somewhere in Loch Ness. Africa as well saw our ancestors, Australopithecus, roam through the Cradle of Humankind in the east. Millions of years before them, Spinosaurus were hunting through the northern countries of the African continent. 

When it comes to Japan itself, there are no fossils which can be found in game that are only from this country. China is lucky enough to be the resting place of some species such as Juramaia and Myllokunmingia. So, SE Asia is still in the running. Just not to the same scale of America on this one. 

So where are our islands?

Looking at the evidence presented by the aquatic creatures (both freshwater and ocean-dwelling) and from the bugs there is a very strong case to make for our islands are located somewhere off the south-west coast of Japan, possibly not too far away from the coasts of Korea or China. 

The fossils are a hard one to try and explain. How is it possible to have so many living creatures be found on one side of the Pacific Ocean, while the majority of extinct creatures are found on the other side? Initially the theory of continental drift could explain it. Having the two joined, and as they came apart a small part of America stayed closer to Japan. However, this sadly cannot be the case as Japan actually became an island after rifting away from the eastern edge of Eurasia, while America rifted away from the western side of Eurasia. This means that they are actually moving towards each other, not away.

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Just a couple of million years too late to ride a T-rex

I believe in the case of the fossils this will just have to be something we have to overlook and put it down to the developers just wanting to give its audience a collection of fossils from the other side of the world to get excited about instead of a realistic local selection. But three out of four all pointing towards one place is still very good odds. 

Now it’s time to crack open Google Maps and try and find a good location to jet off to on the SW coast of Japan… 

One thing to take into account now is the only accessible mode of transport in the game, the small seaplane flown by the dynamic duo at Dodo Airlines! Given the size of the plane it is obvious it won’t be making long hauled flights everywhere. Also, the idea that the plane is always ready to take off and return very soon after (flying for less than a minute each time, but we’ll class it as same day return) to a friend’s island or a mystery tour island means these neighbouring landmasses can’t be too far away from our own. This means we need to search for a group/chain of islands instead of an isolated one. 

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Im not 100% sure they should actually let Dodos fly, but oh well…

The best candidate would be somewhere within the Ryukyu Islands. A series of volcanic chain islands stretching from SW Japan to Taiwan. More specifically I believe our islands are part of the Tokara Islands. Closer to Japan, this archipelago of small islands matches the size of our own relatively small island and the numerous even smaller islands found on the mystery tours. 

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The most probable location for our New Horizon, Tokara Islands!

And so there you have it! Thanks to the help of the wonderful creatures that call our AC island home, we have found our New Horizon in the Tokara Islands! I hope you enjoyed the read. 

Cheers, Ed

Volcano-videogame inventory

For those of your who are new to this page, Welcome! This is where we (Jazmin Scarlett, Ed McGowan & Nadine Gabriel) review the volcanism within your favourite mainstream video games, highlighting what they get right and correcting what they get wrong!

It’s been awhile since the Inventory was updated and we’ve covered a lot of volcanism in video games since then, so its about time we added all the new completed reviews to the list.

If anyone has any suggestions of games for us to review, or you would like to review some yourself, please feel free to get in contact with us! We are open to all ideas and contributions.
Similarly, if you have your own theories on the volcanism in the games we’ve reviewed, drop us a comment.


Non Volcanic Reviews

In progress

Assassin’s Creed Origins/Odyssey

Odyssey_Foundry of Hephaistos (1)

Crash Bandicoot Trilogy

Crash3_Bone Yard (3)

The Elder Scrolls (Skyrim and Online)

Skyrim_Soltheim (2)
ESO (5)

Sea of Thieves

Sea of Thieves

Borderlands series


Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (part 2)
– This will be an extension of the first review as there is still much to cover, and not to be confused with a review of BotW2 (although that will be reviewed when its released)

To-do list

  • Mass Effect series
  • Dragon Age series
  • Legend of Zelda series
  • Starfox Adventures
  • Pokémon series
  • Sonic the Hedgehog series
  • Super Mario series

Happy gaming 😊🎮🎲

Shadow of the Tomb Raider: a volcano-videogame review

Hello fellow videogame and volcano friends. I wanted to share this with you sooner, but I have been super busy and recovering from passing my PhD viva, doing my corrections and teaching duties…I also have a load of new games.

Anyway, The Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Absolutely loved this game. In part due to  loving the trilogy but also the ethical questions raised in being a coloniser and just taking stuff without understanding it (although Lara did turn it around in the end). Also because of the geohazards presented. Not only was there volcanic eruptions (and related hazards) but also tsunamis and earthquakes.

Like Spyro, Lego, BoW and others, areas of the game were revisited, and walked through the feasibility of the volcanism presented using the following criteria out of 10, 1 being unrealistic and 10 being realistic:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Accessibility
  3. Viscosity
  4. Death
  5. Overall plausibility

Revisiting this game was tricky in places, as there are certain places you cannot return to because they have either been destroyed or I forgot where they were. So, I did as many as possible post-main storyline, where places were almost free of people/hungry animals wanting to kill Lara, but as this is a Tomb Raider game, the environment still had it out for her. For others, such as the tsunami/earthquake/volcanic eruption/lahar sequences, I did new game plus. So took a little longer than I would have hoped.

Before I go raiding however, I would like to introduce to you a feature I want seen in all future games: the photography mode.


Just by pausing the game, you can choose the photography mode option in the menu and you are given many options to get the perfect screenshot. Not only is there a field of view and depth perception options, there is saturation, contrast, brightness and filter options. I can hide these options with “Y” and then because these images are saved in game, I just used the Xbox’s screenshot function to get the best images. More like this please!

Results of my volcano raiding adventures: logical with a dash of “not possible”.


Because I love maps, almost the first thing I do when I start a new game, is look at the in-game map. When I saw this for a first time, my reaction was “ooohhh yes, when is the eruption?!” Turns out I had to wait a while.

During the prologue portion of the game, Lara and her friend Jonah are exploring in Mexico. The geohazards journey begins when Lara comes across a legend depicting a sequence of “cataclysms” in the form of a tsunami, storm, earthquake and a volcanic eruption.


I like this, as I have an interest in an area of research called “geomythology”. I touched upon in my From Dust review. After existing the tomb and getting into a scuffle with the main antagonist, the first geohazard occurs.



I cannot speak from experience, but tsunamis are a terrifying hazard. I think this sequence captures it well. There plenty of opportunities to kill Lara if not timing jumps right or you bump her into something you were not supposed to.

It is possible to survive them, but chances are not very high, mainly due to the force of the water and the many obstacles in the way. I talk more about them in my From Dust review.

Next part of the game, Lara and Jonah travel to Peru, but crash land in the jungle due to a storm that “came out of nowhere”. That was the second foreseen hazard. I shall skip onto a sidequest tomb I explored, I found the geology quite interesting. In this tomb, it was beneath(?) an old location where oil was extracted.


Oh and it also had wolves in it. It reminds me of the Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan. Which is related to methane gas deliberately set on fire since 1971 and is still ongoing. Not oil, but it just reminded me of it. This is certainly beyond my expertise, maybe oil does behave like this? Another location, part of the main quest, has pools which maybe oil or not, which are constantly on fire.

Another sidequest tomb had natural pockets of sulphur dioxide (as Lara remarks “uhh it smells like rotten eggs”), which can be set on fire and cause some explosions. Whilst I question how people managed to construct something to concentrate the gas, it is entirely realistic to have pockets of natural gas, as societies extract them for energy.


Next hazard was the earthquakes, first when I reach a main quest tomb:


I have to hand it to Lara, she somehow knew that it was a foreshock? There were 2 foreshocks, before the larger, final earthquake happened within this sequence:


I think my confusion here is the terminology used, as it conflicts with what the earthquakes were described as in the next area of San Juan’s Mission. In this area, right in the shadow of a volcano , people describe the earthquakes as volcanic tremors. Tectonic earthquakes and volcanic earthquakes are different.


They mainly differ because of their origins: whilst tectonic earthquakes are the result of tensions within the plate tectonics and fault lines, volcanic earthquakes are related to magma movement, the fractures they cause but also strong volcanic explosions. Of course, it can be hard to distinguish between the two without the proper instruments, the perceptions and life experiences people have had.

Approaching near the end of the game and emerging from a tomb, the volcano just is…erupting. With no other earthquakes or signs that its activity was increasing. It was confusing. From the following screenshots, you can see it is a kind of eruption that would not go unnoticed. Or it is maybe because Lara was underground in between the earthquakes and the eruption taking place. I do not know, I feel like something was missing in letting me know that a full on eruption was happening.

Critiquing the eruption itself, there are some good elements and some missing opportunities. Good thing: the eruptive column. It dominates the sky, it does appear to drift in the direction of behind the volcano, making that part of the sky dark. The lava fountaining is also realistic, but I do wonder if certain hazard processes are missing here. The shape of the volcano is similar to Mt. Mayon in the Philippines. This video has shows the features I think are missing. Namely a little bit more lava spatter but also pyroclastic density currents (PDCs). But, perhaps they could have occurred behind the volcano where we cannot see? PDCs can travel down a defined river valley path but also blanket the flanks of volcanoes.


One thing I neither fully agree with or disagree with is the depiction of ashfall. What is different compared to games reviewed so far (apart from Pokémon Emerald), is that ash actively represented. What I do question is all the little specks of embers. Volcanic ash is not as incandescent as what is shown here. On the same note, Lara and all others in the area, should have been wearing eye and breathing protection. Volcanic ash are tiny particles of rock and if inhaled, can cause serious respiratory problems and an irritant to your eyes. Nonetheless, it is the most realistic in what has been reviewed to date.

After fighting a bunch of people and losing the artefact to the antagonist of the game, something unexpected happened. Interestingly, this earthquake (and there was a distant sound of an explosion) happened first:


And then this:


A lahar! Lahars are volcanic mudflows: slurry mixtures of volcanic material, debris and water (or ice). Generally was surprised that this was put into the game but the rest of the sequence…I had questions. First is that this begins in a street. Has this place been built on an old river channel? If so, that is serious neglect of land-use planning. If not…I do not know, volcanologists should have mapped this area and produced a hazard map. The lahar does seem like the right consistency, then again, lahars have different categories depending on the ratio of water and sediment content. You may also see a volcanic bomb just before the camera pans around. I cannot tell what the distance from the volcano to Lara’s position is, but generally speaking, volcanic bombs do not travel beyond 5km from a volcanic centre – mainly because they are too heavy to travel any further.

Second issue I had are the huge gaps that appear in the ground? I honestly cannot explain if and how it is connected to the volcanic eruption and the lahar. Maybe loads of sinkholes just happened coincidentally?



Actually, this was the biggest issue I had with the lahar sequence. I cannot understand it at all.

SOTTR_GCaiman Gif (2)

Last issue was how the sequence ended. There just happened to be a coastal area nearby, some debris flowed out with the lahar and then it just…ends? It was quite a substantial lahar, I think it would carry on pouring into the coastal area for a lot longer than it did.

That was the last of hazards in the main game. But, there are two DLC (downloadable content) called “The Forge” and “The Grand Caiman”, where volcanism returns. The Forge started it off when you first arrive in an area where you fight off some wolves:

SOTTR_The Forge (1)

After a bit of navigating the environment, Lara reaches the main puzzle area:

SOTTR_The Forge to Gif (1)SOTTR_The Forge (4)

Exploding sulphur dioxide pockets also feature, which are used to turn the central tower. I am intrigued how a wood, metal and brick could endure the lava and extreme heat for so long, however the base of the tower seems to be constructed into the local rock. I am also uncertain how far below ground we are, but is it possible to reach a cave system that has a lava lake area? I do not think we have real life examples to help us with that answer.

The second DLC was more interesting. We have a volcano in eruption, but the ashfall is more realistic. Moreover, Lara reacts to the ash but putting her hand over her mouth and coughing. In fact, it causes damage to her.

SOTTR_GCaiman Gif (1)

She is seriously under prepared in exploring in these areas.

SOTTR_The Grand Caiman (8)SOTTR_The Grand Caiman (5)

However, further into the DLC quest tomb we hit familiar territory:

And with that, let us have the verdict on The Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s representation of volcanism (and other hazards).

  1. Aesthetics
    • 9 – It is unmistakably a beautiful game in an environment made to be as believable as possible. Texture on the lava appears accurate with the darkened patches related to cooling.
  2. Accessibility
    • 8 – If the invisible boundaries are not there, then falling into the lava is possible. The tsunami and lahar sequences put you right into the action, so highly accessible on purpose. The earthquakes and volcanic eruption are mainly for driving the story forward and are background imagery.
  3. Viscosity
    • 6 – This was hard to determine, but as per usual in videogames, it appears too runny.
  4. Death
    • 9 – If you know your Tomb Raider games, then the death sequences are sometimes too graphic. In all sequences apart from the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can you be killed by the hazards. However, and I apologise that I did not record a clip to show, if you fall in lava, you simply just disappear. Lahar was a bit more realistic by sinking into it.
  5. Overall plausibility
    • 8 – The game’s environment was made to be believable, so the hazards tried to be too. Whilst I have some issues with the earthquake and lahar sequences, overall, it does a pretty good job in my opinion.

There you have it, very long overdue. I hope it was enjoyable! I will not be reviewing for a while now, but hopefully will be back reviewing next year. There are plenty of volcano-videogame reviews if you have not already seen them:

Happy gaming 🙂

Pokémon Emerald: a volcano-videogame review

Welcome back volcano-videogame friends, we have a new blog and a new guest! Nadine Gabriel takes us through the volcanism of another Pokémon game: Emerald version.


Pokémon Emerald is the enhanced version of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, and was released in 2004/2005 for Game Boy Advance. It’s the final game of the third generation of Pokémon. Although the plot is pretty similar to Ruby and Sapphire, there are some extras such as three different legendary Pokémon and the presence of both Team Aqua and Team Magma – you can read more about the differences here.


Pokémon Emerald takes place in Hoenn which is based on the Japanese region of Kyushu but rotated 90° anticlockwise. The map below shows the locations featured in this review.

2) Hoenn Map

As usual, the following criteria will be rated out of 10, with 1 being unrealistic and 10 being realistic:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Accessibility
  3. Viscosity
  4. Death
  5. Overall plausibility

Verdict: Lava, lava everywhere! There are lots of chances to explore volcanic landforms in Hoenn!

Mt. Chimney

To the north of Hoenn lies the volcano Mt. Chimney. You can access its fiery peak via Jagged Pass (a steep mountain path) or the more scenic and relaxing cable car. As the cable car carries you towards the top of Mt. Chimney, ash starts to appear in the air.

3) Cable Car

Once at the top, you’re free to explore the bubbling lava in the crater or battle various Pokémon trainers. Many trainers seem fine with standing right next to a bubbling lava lake, although one person does complain about the heat. Right outside the cable car station is an old lady who sells Lava Cookies. These tasty treats don’t contain lava but they can heal your Pokémon’s status conditions.

4) Lava Cookies

Early on in the game, exploring Mt. Chimney reveals a subplot which involves stopping Team Magma from using a stolen meteorite to intensify the volcano’s activity and create new land. While it’s true that volcanism is responsible for creating various landmasses all over the world (e.g. Hawaii), Team Magma’s evil plan sounds very questionable. After you foil the meteorite plot, Team Magma resort to using jet fuel to trigger Mt. Chimney – I guess that sounds a little bit more plausible!

5) Ashy Eyelashes

To the north of Mt. Chimney lies Route 113. Along this route, ash is constantly falling from the sky and blanketing the ground in thick grey ash. Since this is the only place in Hoenn with ash, it shows that the prevailing wind direction is southerly. The ash fall is so intense it blocks out the Sun so this area doesn’t get very warm. Despite the suffocating cloak of the ash, people seem to get along with their lives: some children hide in deep piles of ash, others enjoy taking walks through ash-covered grass, and one person tries to crack a joke about it.

6) Team Magma

Once you obtain the soot sack, you can collect volcanic ash. You can only collect ash by walking through tall grass so you’ll be at risk of Pokémon battles; it’s best to collect ash while using some Repel. If you take the collected ash to the local glassmaker, they’ll be able to turn it into one of the following glass items.

  • Blue flute (250 steps): Wakes a sleeping Pokémon during battle
  • Yellow flute (500 steps): Snaps a Pokémon out of confusion during battle
  • Red flute (500 steps): Snaps a Pokémon out of infatuation during battle
  • Black flute (1000 steps): Reduces wild Pokémon encounter rate by 50%
  • White flute (1000 steps): Increases wild Pokémon encounter rate by 50%
  • Pretty chair (6000 steps): Furniture for the player’s Secret Base
  • Pretty desk (8000 steps): Furniture for the player’s Secret Base

7) Glass Workshop

On the southwestern foothills of Mt. Chimney is Lavaridge Town. It has a hot spring which is a hit with the local old people who claim it calms nervous tension, relieves aching muscles, solves romantic problems and attracts money. Next to the hot spring, other people relax by burying themselves in warm sand. This is likely based on sand bathing on Ibusuki Beach in Kyushu, Japan where people bury themselves up to their necks in sand warmed by Kaimondake Volcano.

8) Lavaridge Hot Spring

Sootopolis City

This city is built on the crater of a volcano. It’s nice that so many of the locals are happy to tell you about the geological history of the city. Many years ago, an underwater volcano erupted and soon emerged from the sea. Over time, its crater became filled with rainwater and then the city was built on the inner crater wall. Sootopolis City can only be accessed with a flying Pokémon or by diving underwater and through the crater rim. Inside the city, several houses and steps are built on the steep crater walls.

9) Sootopolis


It’s not just Hoenn that’s volcanic. There are a few volcanic Pokémon too!

  • Slugma: This slug-like Pokémon is composed of magma and lives near volcanic areas to prevent itself from cooling down (if it does cool down, its skin will harden and become brittle)
  • Numel: This camel-like Pokémon has a volcanic hump on its back filled with 1200 °C magma (this is a similar temperature to the lava erupted by Kīlauea in Hawaii)
  • Camerupt: This Pokémon evolves from Numel when it reaches level 33. It has two volcanoes on its back which erupt every 10 years
  • Groudon: One of the three legendary Pokémon in Emerald (the other two are Rayquaza and Kyogre). Towards the end of the game, it can be found sitting in a lava lake inside Terra Cave. The location of Terra Cave moves across Hoenn, which suggests that lava lakes are common throughout the region

10) Volcanic Pokemon


  1. Aesthetics: Bearing in mind that this game was released back in 2004, the graphics are pretty decent. The bubbling animation of the lava really brings it to life, there’s animated steam in volcanic regions, and the visual effects when walking through ash are nice. Score = 8
  2. Accessibility: Chimney is very accessible. If you’re not able to make the climb up the steep Jagged Pass, the cable car will take you right to the top so you can easily explore the crater. Also, there are lots of places where you can walk right to the edge of lava lakes. Score = 9
  3. Viscosity: This is a bit hard to rate as there’s no flowing lava in the game. The lava lakes bubble quite vigorously so viscosity seems to be low. Also, Groudon manages to swim quite easily through a lava lake. Score = 9
  4. Death: Several people stand right next to bubbling lava lakes without any ill effects even though they don’t have any protective equipment. Luckily it’s not possible to jump into any of the lava lakes. The glassmaker on Route 113 has a terrible wheezing cough due to ash inhalation – Mt. Chimney does have negative health effects but it doesn’t seem to be lethal. Score = 1

Overall plausibility: Other than the not so hot lava and the weird meteorite-powered eruption subplot, overall plausibility is not so bad. The hot springs and sand bathing are based on real-world examples. The ash causes realistic respiratory problems. Score = 5


If you enjoyed this review, do check out others by myself and guest blogger Ed McGowan.

Happy gaming 🙂

Spyro: The Questionable Volcanism Trilogy

Look. I love Spyro. Played the originals on the first Playstation and have been playing the Reignited Trilogy. But honestly…some of the volcano bits got me so confused.

Spyro’s trilogy consists of you taking control of a cute little purple dragon named Spyro, accompanied by also cute little companion Sparx the Dragonfly who is your health indicator. The first game your mission is to find and free adult (strangely all male) dragons trapped in statues. The second game is to collect tailsmens and orbs. The final game sees Spyro collecting dragon eggs stolen from the (strangely all male) dragons from the first game. Third game is more fun by letting you control additional characters: Shelia the Kangaroo, Sergent Bird the…Pengiun, Bentley the Yeti and Agent 9 the Monkey.


  • Xbox One and the console’s version of the Spyro trilogy.
  • Screenshot and video clips function of the console (and a video-to-GIF converter).
  • Cups of tea and snacks.

I also have a criteria out of 10, 1 being unrealistic and 10 being realistic:

  1. Aesthetics
  2. Accessibility
  3. Viscosity
  4. Death
  5. Overall plausibility

It took about a couple of hours to collect the data. Big limitations were: 1) enemies wanted to hurt Spyro while I investigated the levels, so had to go through the whole level and get rid of them first, and 2) a lack of a dedicated photography mode (I will showcase how awesome these are for Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed at a later stage).

Results: Questionable in places.

Spyro the Dragon

The first game is a little lacking in volcanism, which is fine. Just means the dragon’s world is not that volcanically active?

First example that might be considered lava was found in the ‘Dark Hollow’ level:

Spyro1_Dark Hollow
It hurts Spyro like lava (see Spyro 2). But is reflective like water. But its physics make it seem viscous. Its confusing.

This area had two self-contained pools of this blue-purple stuff. You had to jump/glide over the platforms to reach some enemies, collect some gems and a chest key. So, can we link this weird pool of blueberry death to real world volcanism? Why yes, we can!

Some eruptions produce “cerulian blue eruptions”, like these photos of Kawah Iljen volcano in Indonesia. The “blue lava” occurs due to the combustion of sulphur as it comes into contact with oxygen. So it is technically the gas that is burning blue-purple in the above photo. Not the pool of death. So…this means that whatever it is, it is hot and has a lot of sulphur coming off it.

I have been told this is not “technically blue lava” but it is way more easier to say than cerulian blue eruption. This blue lava actually corresponds nicely to the next example of volcanism I came across in the ‘Peace Keepers’ home world:

Spyro1_Peace Keepers (1)

Spyro1_Peace Keepers (2)
Spyro and Sparx for scale. Tiny little vent!

It appears that for this particular area of the dragon world, there is a lot sulphur…maybe. I do not know. The bigger vent in the first photo does not appear to have a high viscosity, quite the opposite really, it is quite runny.

The last example in the first Spyro game comes from the mini-boss level ‘Jacques’.

What I can accept is the plausibility of lava falls and that they are quite runny and free flowing. We only need to look at Kilauea for a direct real life comparison:

What I do have an issue with is the infrastructure built up around the flows. Like…the risk assessment must have been horrendous. Even still, imagine the number of days without injuries at work count! If we are going on the basis that Kilauea’s lava is up to 1,140ºC when it enters the ocean, the amount of potential harmful volcanic gases emitted (absent in games) and splashing of lava (only in the form of wisps of glowing embers in the photos) it seems like unless the builders were constantly in protective suits and highly resilient to really hot temperatures…it does not seem plausible. Maybe fairies did it.

  1. Aesthetics: 8
    • It is a very pretty game, but for the lava flows some detail is missing to show flow complexity.
  2. Accessibility: 9
    • All examples you can go up to them, touch them, get hurt and lose a life. Just wish I could have gotten to the top of those lava falls.
  3. Viscosity: 8
    • Pretty good for the lava falls but I question the collective pool at the bottom. The flow of the blue lava vent seems good too, but lacks detail.
  4. Death: 6 (see Spyro 2)
  5. Overall plausibility: 8
    • The blueberry pool of death and the infrastructure around the lava falls brought the mark down.

We move onto the next game! Where all volcanology knowledge is just thrown out of the window for one level.

Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!

This was my favourite within the trilogy. So I was paying special attention. The first level I will talk about is ‘Skelos Badlands’:

Set in a prehistoric setting with cavemen, dinosaurs and dancing skeletons I like the range of volcanism in this level. Right from the start we have a lava fall and flow, which similarly to the ones in the previous game, lack the detail when there is a change in flow from a near perfect straight vertical to a near perfect straight horizontal direction.

But we have something new…lava bombs! Spyro can hold one in his mouth, and then spit at an an enemy to kill them. Who needs to breath fire anyway? What is questionable about them is how perfectly circular they are. Each new bomb gets (conveniently) erupted from the nearby lava flow, does a little bounce and then lays motionless waiting. In reality, lava bombs come in all different spaces and sizes. But the appearance of it, with some of it cooled and crusted over, and other parts still molten, is accurate.

Oh FYI, this is how lava hurts Spyro in the three games:


In reality, you would not be able to survive full direct contact four times…or at least not in the way that implies that Spyro’s butt gets burnt four times before being cremated. Being on top of the lava and then slowly sinking in it might be plausible though. But I would not go try that.

In any case, I like this level…check out where this complex lava flow takes you! Through a giant dinosaur’s skull and innards into a cave no less!


Next, I’ll briefly go over the lava bodies found in the level ‘Breeze Harbour’.

Spyro2_Breeze Harbour

Some sort of metal infrastructure appears either next to the lava pools or are standing objects within it. Not to mention that sentient spiky mines jump around within the pools that you need to use a cannon to destroy them for an orb.

As this standing lava pool is yellow and in some places white, the temperature of it is around about 1,000 – 1,200ºC, maybe higher. Metals and alloys have different melting points and according to the chart in the link, carbon steel and stainless steel would withstand the temperatures. I did not know that!

Another brief look at the level “Fracture Hills” that features Scottish Satyrs, fauns, dancing pigs, murderous vegetation and rock golems that can only be killed this way:

Spyro2_Fracture Hills to Gif.gif

We have a mixture of comedy as the golem comes to the realisation that it is about to die and the unrealistic exploding into a pieces. In reality, rock just gets swallowed up by lava. So the golem should have just slowly sunk to its doom.

Okay…now to the level in the game that really confused me. This is the introductory video to the level ‘Magma Cone’:

Spyro2_Magma Cone to Gif (1)

Multiple questions ran through my head when I watched it:

  • Why are they chilling right there?
  • A few precursory tremors and a little bit of Strombolian activity?
  • Wait…that’s a volcano?!
  • But the volcano is made out of brick?
  • Hey, that guy clearly knows something is up…why are you ignoring him?
  • Oh hell that’s a big lava bomb right?!
  • Oh sh…he’s dead right?
  • Wow…this is not the time to be all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ and just continue chilling when a volcano just killed someone right next to you mate. Should probably warn people and get out of the way?

Alas, things do not get more logical in this level.

Spyro2_Magma Cone

These walls feature all around the level area and what intrigues me are the two glowing layers. Sure enough, you can still have a hot layer when another is added on top, but I do not know any examples where two thin layers just remain hot and glowing like the above photo and do not seep into the layers below them. Unless it is a complex lava tube system. Which in this case, is not.

Next video adds question marks for this level. An ice cave within a really obvious volcano cone.

Spyro2_Magma Cone to Gif (2)

I mean…sure maybe you could have climbable walls built into a volcano that you knew would not erupt again, like this mini one. But this ice cave with popping green (lava?) crystals from green glowing veins seems a bit sketchy. Although, caves made by lava flows is not uncommon: they are lava tubes/caves. The green crystals could even be perfect-every-time olivine. Lava tubes can even form under ice and glaciers:

2018-12-19 19.37.29
Taken in 2012 from an expedition to study lavas that traveled under ice during the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland. Many thanks to Ben Edwards (@lava_ice) for letting me use this photo.

But here is where this level lost me completely:

Spyro2_Magma Cone to Gif (3)

Yes. Spyro did stop the volcano erupting by just climbing up it and closing the lid of it. No. No you cannot put a lid over a volcano.

  1. Aesthetics: 8
    • Same as the first game.
  2. Accessibility: 9
    • Same as the first game, but this time I can go into a couple of volcanoes.
  3. Viscosity: 8
    • Same as the first game.
  4. Death: 6
    • Maybe because Spyro is a dragon, so he experiences it differently.
  5. Overall plausibility: 5
    • I am sorry but you cannot put a lid on a volcano.

Back to limited volcanism examples and less confusion.

Spyro 3: Year of the Dragon

This game I think is certainly the most challenging of the three. But what is not challenging is the volcano-related stuff. The first example that has volcanism right in the foreground and background is the level ‘Molten Crater’:

Spyro3_Molten Crater (1)Spyro3_Molten Crater (2)

Lava lakes would explain the background. But then I do wonder if the level you run around in is an island within a gigantic volcanic crater? From the level name that does sound like that is the case. Do not think that is possible though. Unless, the level is a giant, complex lava dome? But having areas where there is lava coming out of the dome as well as built infrastructure is a bit unrealistic.

La Soufriere St. Vincent’s lava dome. There are some fumaroles (white bit on the left of it) but no running lava. This is common even for more “active” volcanoes with lava domes.

So separately, the volcanism in this level is sound…just together its a bit questionable! Last evidence I found of volcanism in this game is the introductory level of Sgt. Bird…a flying penguin.

Spyro3_Sgt. Bird (2)Spyro3_Sgt. Bird (1)

Flying penguins aside, we have a tunnel of lava which can be translated to a lava tube that still has lava flowing through it. Some lava tube roofs can partially or completely collapse, creating “skylights” but, it looks like the roof’s integrity is pretty solid to stand up on its own. Last image to share were large crystals outcropping of the walls that surrounded an area with lava pools. Considering they are green, embedded in walls that does look similar to the ‘Magma Cone’ level and near lava, I’m going to say its oversized olivine.

  1. Aesthetics: 8
    • Same as the first two games.
  2. Accessibility: 9
    • Same as the first two games.
  3. Viscosity: 8
    • Same as the first two games.
  4. Death: 6
  5. Overall plausibility: 8
    • Island level in the middle of a lava lake brings the mark down.

Overall, the volcanism is plausible in some places and others not so much (looking at you Magma Cone lid) in Spyro’s universe. Regardless, it has been great to play the original trilogy in its scaled up glory!

Next post, I will be looking at The Shadow of the Tomb Raider! Until then, happy gaming 😀


Crowdfunding an earth science podcast

Hi! So I am setting up an earth science, science communication-themed podcast called “What on Earth?!” with my friend Nuzhat Tabassum, a fellow geology PhD student at Bristol.

Despite how visibly prevalent Earth Science is and the impacts it can have on communities, it is one of the least accessible science. The school curriculum has very little exposure to geological studies and even among students that choose to study Earth Sciences at a degree level, the student population is not representative. Earth Science is just underrated!

So to address this, we will be creating a podcast that covers current earth science news and, invite earth scientists to discuss their work and their science topic. This cannot be done without your help!

Donations will cover equipment, recording and editing software and launching a website with our own domain.

Crowdfunding page: click here

What on Earth?! Podcast Twitter account: click here