Ikonei Island Review - It Isn't All Fun Under the Sun 3453434534

Ikonei Island Review – It Isn’t All Fun Under the Sun

It’s always exciting trying an experience you’re not familiar with. Even if you prefer one genre, or style of play, there are likely more you have yet to discover. This is one thing I genuinely enjoyed about E3, and conventions in general, is the occasional title that introduced seemingly foreign concepts. In the case of Ikonei Island, it’s a spin-off of Earthlock, with Snowcastle Games trying to give their own spin on the island sim genre. Given their previous success, is this a winner, or is it an island best left unexplored?

Ikonei Island starts with a brief cutscene explaining how the unlikely cast of characters arrived on the island. Unsurprisingly, the group were on a ship that simply crashed on the island. Even if the explanation isn’t great, the visuals, and narration is quite nice. Instead of approaching it with a serious tone, it’s rather laidback, and has a casual feel to it.

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Do We Want to Get Technical?

Once on the island players will need to interact with a variety of locals to find out what to do. Initial quests explain crafting, and ask players to set up their homestead. Essentially, collect specific resources, bring them to predetermined spots, possibly interact with them a certain way, and then return to the quest giver. We purposefully waited a bit to ensure we experienced the “Blooming Beginnings” version, as it improves the onboarding experience.

Let me start by saying the introduction isn’t great. This is due to three rather simple, but quite annoying reasons. The first is Sariel’s tutorial is rather cumbersome. Instead of gradually guiding players through the introduction, she lazily waits until interacted with following competition. It’s tedious, and something that continues throughout. Like later on I built her shop, except she won’t use said shop until you inform her there is now a building behind her.

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From there, the tutorial continues through natural progression, and placing frogs on specific altars. Normally this approach would work well, except frogs alternate between rudimentary details, and explaining mechanics needed to progress. It’s a lot to take in, not a lot of it is what I’d considered useful, with the useful things being lost in a sea of pointless blather.

After the tutorial things start to really open up for Ikonei Island. Despite being a simulation title, it’s surprisingly dynamic. There are a lot of enemies to defeat, and creatures to befriend. This is perhaps my favorite element in Ikonei Island.

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Instead of relying on genre norms, like collecting wood/stone to build a basic axe, players need to befriend a specific bird. Each companion has a similar function, like the bug pollinates, there is a ram looking guy that breaks stones, and so forth. Each companion also requires maintenance (food, pets, bathing) to ensure they perform as expected.

While the companion system is nice, the core gameplay loop often feels a bit structured. Usually there is a finite amount of space available until the current objective is figured out. So initially it’s collecting specific resources, then it’s building a certain item, followed by using the bird to cut down trees blocking paths, and so forth. Each new area will continue to build on these core functions as well.

In addition to these roadblocks, many objectives have hard limits. For example, I mentioned Sariel eventually opens a shop. Building it isn’t possible until a set number of shrines are restored, followed by having its own crafting requirements. Most locations are like this, as are upgrades. It simply isn’t possible to break the initial gameplay loop, something that simply won’t appeal to those hoping to make the island their home.

I can also confirm the PlayStation 5 experience isn’t great. Ikonei Island unsurprisingly struggles to deliver great controls. This is a common problem, one that is a bit more noticeable due to dodgy positioning. It isn’t gamebreaking, though it’s absolutely annoying.

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Break. The. Rock

Performance was surprisingly bad as well. I say surprisingly, since Ikonei Island is actually a PlayStation 4 title. Loading takes a noticeable amount of time, just testing for this review it took 28 seconds to go from the main screen to my island. There are also noticeable frame rate drops when entering new areas, or a place with a lot of new content. It isn’t what you’d expect, especially from a title that looks rather simple.

Before moving onto the verdict, I want to briefly touch on events, and the Friends’ Pass. Due to the timing of our review we had the opportunity to check out the “Coco-Cloudberry Craze!” event. During this time players can collect colorful eggs, and unlock unique seasonal items. This didn’t feel particularly daunting to complete. They were hidden just enough where I needed to pay attention, but not so much I would need to comb the island if I wanted everything. This event leaves me hopeful future events will find a similar balance.

Finally, I want to applaud Snowcastle Games for including a Friends’ Pass. This feature seems to be limited to PC, at least at the moment, though we’re hopeful this changes. With the pass players who don’t own a copy of Ikonei Island can play it indefinitely with a friend that does. This works with up to three friends, so it’s an extremely generous feature. Those without friends can also download this for a 2 hour trial.

Ikonei Island Review Verdict

Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure: Simply put, Ikonei Island is an interesting experience that is still a bit rough. Not only are the performance issues quite noticeable, it takes a while before you can start making the island your own. Still, the core experience has potential, and positive elements like Friends' Pass leaves us optimistic for Ikonei Island's future. Grant

von 10

Editor’s Note: Ikonei Island was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.

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