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Islands of Insight Review

Islands of Insight
Image: Behaviour Interactive

If you’re a puzzle fan, Islands of Insight from Lunarch Studios and Behaviour Interactive is an absolute must-play. It’s as simple as that. Described as a “shared world” experience, this is a relaxing game of exploration and puzzle solving, all of which can be enjoyed at your own pace – and either alone or with friends.

It’s essentially a puzzle book that you can walk around and interact with, with puzzles crammed in to just about every corner of the game. Many of Islands of Insights’ puzzles test your logic, like its block grid puzzles that ask you to place black and white tiles adhering to a number of rules. Others are simply hidden objects within the world: archways or rings that you’ll undoubtedly stumble across as you’re walking around.

Remember those QR code puzzles in the very first Watch Dogs, where you had to stand in just the right place to line up a giant QR code printed on the floor or sides of buildings? There are some of those, too. And there are groups of rings that you must look through from just the right angle in order to peer through all gold rings at once. You’ll find match three-type puzzles, pairs of blocks hidden in the world that need matching up, kaleidoscope-type puzzles, and a whole lot more. New types will unlock as you progress, so even when you’re 10, 15 hours into your journey you’ll have something new to look forward to.

Islands of Insight screenshot
Image: Behaviour Interactive

Not that Islands of Insight ever really gets stale, particularly if you enjoy the types of puzzles it throws at you. The game’s Steam page boasts more than 10,000 puzzles, and it’s not wrong: the puzzles in the game refresh regularly and with daily missions to complete, there’s almost always something new to do.

This is the type of thing you can spend hours completely absorbed in, or you can dip in and out for short bursts at a time. However you want to play, Islands of Insight will cater to you. It helps that its world looks so divine, and it’s accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack that somehow manages to be dramatic and relaxing all at once.

There’s a narrative of sorts in Islands of Insight, but it’s pretty superfluous. Happily, though, there is a campaign to work through, leading you to specific areas where you’ll need to meet certain goals to unlock new puzzle types and new parts of the world. For much of the game, if you don’t like a type of puzzle, you’re free to ignore them. But in these main missions, you may have to grin and bear working your way through puzzles that aren’t your favourite. You’ll never have to do too many of them, though, and it’s a good way to test your weaknesses, getting better at them as you go.

Islands of Insight screenshot
Image: Behaviour Interactive

As you solve more puzzles and finish missions, you’ll gain experience and puzzle mastery. Your experience points can be spent to unlock a range of upgrades, a number of which will make getting around the world of Islands of Insight much easier. Early into playing you’ll unlock the ability to glide, for example, allowing you to fly through the air. You’ll also unlock double jumps and super-powered high jumps, making traversal of this gorgeous world a treat – nowhere is ever out of your reach.

The one area of Islands of Insight that we’re not completely sold on is its shared world experience. It’s about the only complaint we could raise when we previewed an early version of the game last year, and now after playing the full game we still have the same reservations. Sure, you’ll encounter random people in the world as you’re going about your business, but there’s little you can do with them unless you want to add them as a friend.

Solving a puzzle is a solitary experience, and so teaming up with friends would allow you to talk through solutions – but what’s stopping you doing that anyway, outside the confines of the game? It just works as a single-player experience and we can’t help but think that the “shared world” element is somewhat underbaked and unnecessary. It’s disappointing as a key feature of the game, but ultimately it doesn’t take away from your experience of playing, however you want to go about it.

Islands of Insight screenshot
Image: Behaviour Interactive

We’ve also found it frustrating that, officially, Islands of Insight doesn’t support controllers: at this moment in time, this is strictly a keyboard-and-mouse only game. It’s a confusing decision, especially when the developers have taken the stance of “strongly discouraging” the use of controllers. Confession: we played the game with an Xbox controller, mapped via Steam Input. It worked just fine. Hopefully official support will be added in time: much of the time, you’re simply exploring via a first-person viewpoint and using a controller makes sense.

Those niggles aside though, we can’t deny that Islands of Insight is one of the best puzzle games we’ve ever played. The sheer amount of puzzles on offer here is incredible, without ever being overwhelming. There’s a solid sense of progression, with goals to work towards – but you’re also free to explore however you wish, tackling the puzzles that interest you and, for the most part, ignoring the ones you don’t enjoy as much. It’s already great but with a few updates over time, Islands of Insight could really be something special.

Islands of Insight Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Islands of Insight has been facilitated by a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PC.
Editor in chief // Kim's been into video games since playing Dizzy on her brother's Commodore 64 as a nipper. She'll give just about anything a go, but she's got a particular soft spot for indie adventures. If she's not gaming, she'll be building Lego, reading a thriller, watching something spooky or... asleep. She does love to sleep.