Gamer on a Budget #17 – Islanders

Gamer on a Budget #17 – Islanders

Reviewed by William LJ Galaini

Developer: Grizzly Games
Price: $4.99 on PC
Where: Steam
Platform: PC, ios, linux

Be it Minesweeper, Solitaire, or Mahjong, everyone has their Zen game. Conference call too boring? Run out of brain power after a long day? Putting off that email? Time for a Zen game.

And here it is. Islanders is perhaps the paragon of the tiny, casual genre of minimalism. The mechanics are instantly understandable yet permissive of immense player choice. Additionally, it is a stripped-down city builder which leads the relaxing player to have a sense of growth and accomplishment. Overall, Islanders is the perfect relaxation game.

First off, the sound design is populated with gentle audio ques and soothing transitions to where you always have a large sense of space and scale. Everything gently echoes beyond the confines of your screen as ocean waves lap and buildings become rooted.

The animations compliment this with pixelated charm and precision. Just scrolling back and watching the sunset behind your tiny island paradise puts the player into a very different space than the real world beyond your monitor.

Some islands are more rocky than others.

But just because it is a soothing Zen game does not mean it is easy. Each building type has a specific function and its scoring is factored into where ever the player places it. Put a circus near some simple homes? Bonus points! Put a circus near the wealthy district and the jeweler? Minus points! Shaman huts and sawmills can increase scores of different buildings nearby, as well. These and other structures function as modifiers to your current score. And only when your score breaks through to a preestablished threshold can you move to the next isle. There is also a sandbox mode for those truly wishing to avoid the possibility of failure, removing the barriers.

I love imagining how my famers get from the city proper up to their crops.

As your islands expand and progress, new building types and district selections become available. There is some strategy in holding off on throwing down certain buildings until you have a district constructed around them to maximize their placement score. And when that score rockets off it is a good feeling indeed. That score is also recorded and compared to the other players all over the world and it is a rather nice feeling that tens of thousands of people are relaxing just as you are.

I can find no fault in this game. It pursued the simple goal of producing a minimal city-building relaxation game and it accomplished this with astounding artistry. Disciplined hands crafted this little bit of media. They knew exactly what to omit.

Selecting different bundles of buildings keeps your city within certain themes that stack for extra points. Over time, you’ll see the patterns.

Why you would buy it:
You love city building simulations but hate the tedium
Undeniable value for the dollar

Why you would pass on it:
well, maybe you like Call of Duty?

Recommended for:
Anyone seeking a sleek Zen game.

William LJ Galaini
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