There’s something so cozy about city builders. You lay the groundwork, then watch all those tiny people going about their days from on high. Even without the simulation aspect, it feels nice to build something. ISLANDERS: VR Edition gives me that same feeling, even if everything surrounding the building is completely different.
ISLANDERS has two modes: Arcade and Sanbox. Sandbox allows you to build whatever you want on whatever kind of island you wish, with no limits. You just set the parameters for your island, then create to your heart’s content using houses, windmills, fields, and every other structure in the game. This is a great way to figure out how everything works before heading into the main Arcade mode. Unfortunately you can’t save your islands to visit later, but it gives me the same feelings I get from a game like Townscaper – no pressure, just make whatever catches your eye.
Once you’re ready, Arcade mode offers a very different experience from other city builders. When a round starts, you choose from one of two types of construction sets, for example housing or fishing. You then need to place the objects in those sets near terrain or other structures that will give you points and away from those that will subtract, like putting lumberjacks near trees and fields near a windmill. After placing everything in a set, your points are tallied and, if you earned enough that round, another round begins. Things escalate and get more complex as you’ll still receive structures from previous sets after picking a new one, and the challenge comes from placing everything just right so you can keep going. After a few rounds, you’ll get the opportunity to start fresh on a new island, which is usually bigger but requires more points each round.
I really appreciate smaller VR games like this, sometimes I want to use my headset for a bit but don’t want to shoot zombies in RE4 or get a workout in Beat Sabre. ISLANDERS is good for jumping in, playing a few rounds, and jumping out. Unfortunately it can be a bit frustrating to actually play because of the controls. The game doesn’t really use the face buttons or sticks on the motion controllers, instead relying on the grip buttons, the triggers, and motion almost entirely. To move your view up or down, you hold the grip button and move the controller up or down. To zoom out, hold both grip buttons and make a big “pinch out” motion with your hands. It’s a lot like a mobile game but with your arms instead of your fingers. Honestly, I’d rather just use the sticks for zoom because it would make me just as nauseous without the tedium and impreciseness of motion. You also have to go through the camera tutorial every time you want to start an arcade run, which is super frustrating.
Placing buildings likewise fees imprecise. You need to hold the palm of one hand up to bring up the menu, then use a pointer with the other to select what you want. Then you use another pointer to actually place the structure, though it has an incredibly limited range. It’s all just very cumbersome and overly complex. It can lead to placing things in areas you didn’t mean to as well. The overall gameflow is great, but this VR Edition can be more trouble than it’s worth.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
ISLANDERS: VR Edition
ISLANDERS: VR Edition has a good amount of fun to be had, but actually playing it requires a lot of unnecessary input. It needs a little streamlining to make it easier to pick up and play.