For two years, Grizzly Games’ sandbox known as Islanders was released for PC, allowing you to build your own Zen Garden of an island to spend a little bit of your downtime. Now, the game is available on all your favourite platforms with Islanders: Console Edition.
The premise of the game is simple enough. You start with an empty island and begin to build on it, starting with houses. As you use up the resources you have, placing buildings throughout the island, you will receive points based on the placement of the buildings and you earn your way to more build packs and, eventually, new islands to build upon.
The game’s largest draw is its simplicity. Anyone can pick up a controller and get started playing Islanders: Console Edition right away. The simple gameplay, minimalist style and calming ambience delivers a game that allows you to veg out in front of the screen and relax while you create. While that all sounds great, truthfully, I actually have a lot of issues with the model of this game.
First of all, while the game seems like a fun way to explore your creative side, it can really amount to little more than doing what you are told. The game rewards points based on the placement of buildings in your inventory, but it shows you how many points you will receive as you move the building around. So, if you want to advance efficiently, you’ll put that building in the location they have deemed the most valuable.
“Anyone can pick up a controller and get started playing Islanders: Console Edition right away.”
Secondly, there is seemingly no consequence to any decision outside of how many points you get. Playing other design-based games like SimCity, Zoo Tycoon or something of the sort, you will find that every decision has an impact on your overall product. Doing something so simple as placing items too close together or too far apart results in a negative response to your creation, necessitating you to reimagine your original designs.
So, if a game doesn’t specifically reward you for a creative strategy and doesn’t have repercussions for things done incorrectly while playing (other than a few lost points), does the game even matter? The answer is, in short, no, but I think that is exactly what the designers had in mind when they created Islanders.
A comment that I heard often from other players of the game is that they created something without even realizing that they did it, because they went through the motions rather mindlessly as they navigated the game. While just the mere concept of that thought is enough to drive me insane, I do understand the appeal.
“For under five bucks, you can have your own personal meditation tool in the palm of your hands.”
To give a little analogy, I would think about what I like to do when I go on vacation. I, personally, love to be on the go. Seeing things, doing things, being intellectually stimulated. Many others might prefer to lie on a beach, sit by a fire, just relax. What they get from their experience and what I get from mine can be quite different, but we both come home feeling about the same.
Recognizing that this is not the kind of game for me, but it may be exactly what some people need to chill out after a long day really helped me appreciate the game on a level beyond my own experience. I can see the reasons why someone might want to play this game over something a little more challenging.
Like petting the cat for hours on end, people are sometimes just looking for a mindless activity. Also, a game like this doesn’t require any specific time commitment. You don’t have to wait until you have completed a certain campaign so the game can save. You can pick this game up and play for a few minutes or a few hours. It’s up to you.
This means fewer times will arise where you say: “I don’t have time to play that.” You have a few minutes before you leave for school or work? Pop in the game. Going to the bathroom? Your Switch can go with you, though I don’t recommend it. For most people, that is communal property and the prospect that my Switch has been in the bathroom grosses me out.
The fact that it is so inexpensive is also a big draw to the game. For under five bucks, you can have your own personal meditation tool in the palm of your hands.