Sometimes, a game comes along that does what it is meant to do and nothing more. Islands of Insight was designed to be a beautiful puzzle-solving experience, plain and simple, and that isn’t a bad thing.
Islands of Insight starts with you creating your Seeker that you’ll use to travel the islands, solving puzzle after puzzle at your leisure. There are a few options for head, body, etc., and you’ll have the opportunity to unlock more as you progress through the game. Islands of Insight can be played in both first and third person, so how much effort you put into your character depends on how you want to play the game.
I really mean it when I say Islands of Insight is beautiful. Everywhere you look, the landscapes are bright and vibrant; the detail in the grass, water, and sand is surprisingly exceptional, and the visual appeal of the map itself is excellent. If you climb high enough on the pyramid that centers the overworld, you can see pretty much the entire map and how good it looks, even for things far off in the distance. I wouldn’t say it is as stunning as a stellar RPG like Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden, but for a puzzle game, Lunarch went above and beyond. Oh, and you can glide eventually…because why not?
As for the puzzle part of Islands of Insight, the player is absolutely spoiled for choice. Lunarch Studios has put in well over 10,000 different puzzles to solve, which is a ridiculous number when you think about it. They range across six categories: Movement, Environment, Hidden Object, Logic, Perspective and Action. These puzzles were designed by the team at Lunarch Studios, made up of MIT PhD students, math Olympiad champions, and more. From their website, they describe themselves as, “We’re nerds from MIT. Gaming is our obsession. Perfection is our objective.” It is an interesting experience when you know that about the designers.
Islands of Insight offers so many different options when it comes to the puzzles, from the—at first glance—simple logic cube, where you have to fill in a cube with both black and white squares according to the instructions provided, or the Sentinel Stones puzzles where you have to stand within a given area and make sure that all of the stones in that area can see you clearly—there is a beam that goes from the stone to the player when it is in view. On top of that, each puzzle in the overworld resets itself after some time, so there will always be another puzzle to solve each time you turn the game on.
The game is, at its core, a leisurely puzzling experience. There isn’t a whole lot of story to speak of. Lunarch Studios wants you to complete the game at your own pace, allowing you to go pretty much anywhere you want to right from the beginning. There are going to be some areas that you can’t access right away simply because you need to complete some puzzles first, as well as some of the self-contained island areas that have specific goals to finish. Apart from that, go wherever you want and solve puzzle after puzzle.
There is also some difficulty scaling in Islands of Insight for many of the puzzles. That can mainly be seen in things like the logic cubes, where there will be a dot or series of dots above the puzzle of different colors to indicate the difficulty level. The more dots there are, the higher the puzzle’s difficulty level. Once completed, the dots fill in with that color, so you know it has been completed if you come across it again in your travels before it resets.
Islands of Insight is a point-and-click style of game. You run around using the WASD keys and interact with puzzles using the left click on your mouse. Occasionally, I found that I need to use the right click, which allows you to zoom in on what you’re looking at. I would use it to solve a couple of Rings puzzles that require you to look through all of the rings in a cluster without looking through a specific color of rings within it (it sounds way more complicated than it is, see below). Some extremely tight angles could be found in solving some of these.
What I like the most about Islands of Insight is that it is exactly what it wants to be. No, you probably don’t need a character creator for a game with little to no story, but it was a fun added touch. Today, puzzle games try so hard to become a full video game experience that they lose the simplicity of what makes puzzles fun. I miss hopping on my smartphone and playing a few short puzzles instead of doom-scrolling.
Islands of Insight makes jumping in and out easy and solving puzzles for an insane number of hours. The team has created a gorgeous environment that levels up the experience enough to be impressive but not so much that it doesn’t feel welcoming to those who don’t game traditionally. It is the perfect balance of standard puzzles and video games, with no real ending, so you can play on forever.
Everything about Islands of Insight screams relaxation, from the appearance of the overworld to the soundtrack to the puzzles themselves. I say that, but I was definitely beating my head against the wall for some of these puzzles. Islands of Insight will be perfect for you if you enjoy puzzles and love a good challenge.
Islands of Insight Review: Puzzle Perfection
Islands of Insight is a beautiful, never ending puzzle experience that doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is.
Varying degrees of challenges
Additions like character creation that may not be necessary