Capsule Review: ISLANDERS

A deceptively simple city-building puzzle game. Place a series of buildings on a procedurally-generated island. Each building earns points based on what’s nearby - lumberjacks get points for nearby trees, sawmills gain points for nearby lumberjacks, and so on. Earning points gets you more buildings and periodically new islands; the game ends when you finally run out of buildings and islands without enough points to get any more.

Like GrizzlyGames’s previous work, ISLANDERS presents an intuitive minimalist approach that’s easy to pick up and control but has a high skill ceiling. Soothing music, gentle visuals, easy controls, and no time limit mean it can be played as a relaxing and low-pressure experience - but it can also be played as an intense score attack as you strategize optimal placements to extract as many points as possible from each building to unlock larger islands and climb the leaderboard. And your progress is automatically saved, so it’s easy to pick up and play for a few minutes or go for a marathon session.

There are a couple of minor issues holding it back. As you reach larger islands and make more intricate cities, it becomes easy to feel invested in what you’re building, which increases the tension caused by risk of failure and disrupts your relaxation. And on the flip side, the semi-random nature of the islands and the buildings you’re given can mean it’s not entirely your fault when you reach a game over, which can be frustrating if you’re chasing high scores. But since a game over just means starting over on a new island, which is something you do normally as you progress anyway, these concerns are fairly easy to overlook.

I Stopped Playing When: Much like with Superflight, after playing long enough to get the hang of the game it’s entered my rotation as something I play occasionally to relax.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.