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Islanders

Posted by GG Goblin On April - 5 - 2019

Take me to the next island.

 
There has been a slight trend just recently to strip games down to their minimalistic versions, giving players a more simple, streamlined experience. The latest game to take the minimalist route is GrizzyGames’ Islanders, a city building game set on procedurally generated islands. The developers have kept everything nice and simple in Islanders, or at least that is what they want you to think. However, hiding behind what appears to be a relaxing city building game can in fact be a devilish puzzle game that pits player against player.

 
island1 (Copy)

 
Islanders has a real calmness about it. The procedurally generated islands have a nice, easy to make out colour palette, and the buildings that players will be placing on the islands are simple and cute. Even the music that plays in the background seems designed to relax. Everything is kept compact so players will never be more than a quick turn away from being able to see the little buildings. It’s just lovely.

 
Indeed, when the play starts, it seems as though Islanders will continue this relaxing theme, although it isn’t long before the game reveals its more competitive side. Like so much else in the game, the concept is simple. Players are given an island and then are given a few buildings to place on the island. Placing a building will award the player with points, and reaching a certain number of points will give the player new buildings to place. There are no resources or having to keep anonymous little citizens happy here. Rather, the player will gradually be given more and more impressive buildings to place in their little island city, as long as they continue to reach the score requirements, and once the island settlement reaches a certain size, the player will be offered a new island to move to and start building.

 
Where things get slightly more evil though, is when they don’t reach the point requirement. Quite simple, when this happens it’s game over. The player will have to say goodbye to their settlement and start again on a new island. This could be frustrating, but the fact that a settlement may have only taken a few minutes to get to that point makes it easier to face, and the competitive side of the game will see players quickly moving on to try and top their own score. There is even a leaderboard so players can compare their performance with other players around the world, should they need any more motivation to try another island.

 
island2 (Copy)

 
So, Islanders is a point scoring game. This is where the intricacies of the game come in, as players will have to think carefully and plan ahead when setting their buildings down. Each building placed gets a basic point score. However, if the building is placed close to other similar or complimentary buildings, it will score more points. Similarly, if the building is too close to other certain buildings, it will lose points, leaving the player to carefully work out where to place each individual structure.

 
The game does a good job of explaining the relations between buildings and whether the score will go up or down, and each building has an area of influence that the player can easily see before they choose the final spot. In the early moments on an island, it is quite calm as the player takes advantage of the space and places their buildings to maximise their score. However, before long the player will find themselves struggling for space, or trying to tweak the building placement to squeeze out every last point available. Once set, the buildings can’t be moved or destroyed, so early choices can have lasting consequences.

 
The developers are quite open about the fact that Islanders is not a blockbuster experience with hours and hours of content, but I think they are underselling the game. There is an obvious repetition to building islands, moving onto the next until failing and then starting again. However, the gameplay is very compelling and it works great as a pick up and play title. Players can take a relaxed approach or aim for those leaderboards and really push their planning skills to the limits.

 
island3 (Copy)

 
Islanders is a great little game. By stripping back the city building genre, the developers have created an enjoyable puzzle game that challenges players to make the most out of every inch of their island, before moving on to the next. It is easy to play and easy to understand, but proves to be really tricky as the islands fill up with buildings. With a low coast and plenty of replayability, Islanders is easy to recommend for city builders and puzzle fans alike.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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