Ever wanted to build your own city? Well, there’s lots of games for that. Want to do it on an island? Well, there’s games for that too. How about doing it on a very small island? Well, there’s probably a lot for that too, but this one is ISLANDERS! Let’s build some funky cities!

ISLANDERS bills itself as a city builder strategy type game, but it’s more a strategy puzzler with a bit of city building attached. Your goal is to gain points by placing parts so that you can progress to another island. You’ll be introduced to different types of buildings as you get further in an island, but that is your basic concept.

Wow, summing up basically the entire game in just a few sentences is not something I manage very often. ISLANDERS is really just that straightforward though, and in a way it’s an upside, but in another way it’s a detriment.

So when you first begin you’re dumped immediately into what is known as “High Score Mode”. After a quick controls tutorial, you’re thrown in with your first set of buildings to choose from. Once you place these, as long as you’ve gained enough points to “rank up”, you can choose from your next set of buildings. Eventually, after gaining some amount of points, an island image in the bottom right will fill up and you can progress to the next island, leaving your current one behind, never to be seen again.

As you stay on an island longer, you’ll gain access to different varieties of buildings. I always had the issue that my places were not set up to be ready for them, and several of them have major point losses unless you can get the points back from placement. Of course, it’s totally up to you if you want to stay somewhere – from everything I could tell, there didn’t seem to be much use in sticking around, as the next island starts at a default “20 points until the next tier” point section on a blank island.

The game is great as a way to kill time. When I had a run I was really getting into, I did notice that I really lost track of time. After a while though, I came to a realization – I’m just doing the same thing over and over again. I don’t feel like I’m really doing anything different. Yeah, I had to figure out how to place some special buildings if they were what I was left with and I hadn’t found anywhere to put them yet, but that was it.

I feel like the game could have had so much more. Have a mode to manage multiple islands perhaps, let you do something with those islands you just kind of abandoned. The sandbox mode almost feels like an insult – you can switch to the next island whenever, you can place anything anywhere, and there’s literally no benefit to trying to place properly. I tried it for all of two minutes and quit it out of disgust.

ISLANDERS has an interesting premise, and it’s definitely a time killer, but it feels like so much potential was just left on the table. As it is, it feels almost empty, and as I said, sandbox mode is pretty much an insult to the premise of the game. If you’re in the market for a time killer, perhaps find this one on sale, but I can’t really recommend it at full price.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to find an actual city building simulator to take care of this itch I have to play one. This game definitely didn’t scratch it, since it’s not really an actual city builder, it’s a puzzle game that happens to have city building themes. I won’t argue that it’s got strategy going for it, although it’s a repetitive strategy.

ISLANDERS is available now on Steam. The copy for this review was purchased by myself.

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