STAFF REVIEW of Islanders (Xbox One)

Monday, October 4, 2021.
by Heather Webster

Islanders Box art Islanders: Console Edition is described by developers as a relaxing minimalist strategy game where you build cities on a variety of procedurally generated islands. This means that as you play, there will be no two identical islands. Develop your islands from small villages to large cities as you explore green grasslands, snowy mountains and deserts. Each island has its own unique advantages and challenges.

Developed by Callum and Jordan of Grizzly Games, a German team with the goal of creating unique, replayable and immersive games. Originally released on Steam in Spring of 2019 with support for MAC OS and Linux added later that year, making this game playable on any platform. Islanders is great as a quick half hour break in your day as the beautiful colour schemes and easy game play help relax and reset your mind. Everything from the concept to the controls are designed to be straightforward and intuitive, even with a controller. It’s so easy even my mother could play it. Some reviewers from the 2019 release criticized the game saying that there was room for more complexity, however, I disagree. I think that it is simply perfect and clearly met the goal of the developers. This new and improved edition features more types of islands, a high score game mode and a sandbox mode.

Parents will love the fact that this game does not include weapons, explosions, online multiplayer or microtransactions. So, you can let your kids play this and be worry free knowing that they aren’t meeting random strangers, being exposed to violence or surprising you with mystery credit card bills.

The goal is to acquire points as you create unique island cities starting with either a Lumber or a Farming Pack. As you reach certain point thresholds more packs are unlocked. Choose which direction to lead your city: Do you want to focus on fishing and agriculture or cities and city life? The choice is yours. The potential points increase or decrease as you move each building around the island and as it comes in and out of range of beneficial or incompatible features. Placing buildings around the island also unlocks further islands, which is great because eventually you will either run out of space or lack the points to continue. When this happens open the new island map and begin a new city. This is how a game designed to be played in a half hour, though it captivated my wife for two.

The quick tutorial walks you through three basic controls that allow you to navigate the island. 'Left' and 'Right Trigger' rotate left and right. 'Left Stick' moves you around the island. Up and Down on the D-Pad zoom in and out. The controls that the tutorial doesn’t walk you through are selecting and moving your buildings. However, these are so basic that their easily picked up right away. A bonus feature with Islanders is the amount of Xbox achievements there are to unlock; every time we play, we unlock a few more which is always exciting.

While some people may find the simple graphic style with the minimal colour schemes a little dull, we found them attractively calming. My wife sometimes becomes overwhelmed by too much visual stimuli which certainly wasn’t the case with this game. The combination of the graphics and the melodious soundtrack, with the notes of the sea breeze and chirping birds mixed to the tranquil piano tunes, provided the brain break my wife desperately needs after a full day surrounded by children.

Overall, I found Islanders: Console Edition to be a little under-stimulating, while my wife found it truly enjoyable. She appreciates the calming nature of the game combined with the ability to be competitive in the leaderboard. While we’re not 'wowed' by the quality of the graphics, we do feel that the developers hit the mark with what they were after. We recommend Islanders for anyone that likes Sim City or other such puzzle and strategy games as well as anyone, young or old, needing a quick brain break.

**Islanders was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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