Islets (With Video)

PC, Switch, Xbox

Islets is an absolutely beautiful Metroidvania, with art that reminds me of Studio Ghibli, controls that feel close to perfect, and a difficulty level for the rest of us.

You, a small mouse, live on the fractured remains of a collapsed floating island. At one time, large magnetic cores held the island fragments together, but as the years wore on these became forgotten, until they fell into disrepair. As a result, the island sections drifted apart, and became infested with all manner of beasties. You’re off, along with so many others who are trying, to reunite the fragments, and restore the former floaty bliss.

This is done, as you might imagine, by jumping, thwacking enemies, and gradually improving your range of abilities to reach formerly inaccessible areas. It is, in the most important sense, a Metroidvania, and doesn’t deviate far from the core values. It does, however, deliver it all in a way that’s so gloriously accessible, so deliberately designed for those of us who bounce off hardcore boss fights, and while offering plenty of challenge, does so without being needlessly smug about it.

A lovely detail here is the complexity of the game’s hub area. Once you’ve found your way off the first island fragment, you’ll get access to a little airship (box with propellers), and be able to float in the area cunningly known as The Sky. Here you can visit shops to purchase upgrades, improve your airship, and even encounter another section of (achievable) boss fights to make your way to more fragments.

Even better, as you fix the magnetic cores and join the sections back together again, formerly blocked paths become connections between the map segments, allowing you to find areas you previously couldn’t reach. It’s all so very clever!

I mostly played this on my Steam Deck, which it fits on just perfectly, and where, for whatever reason, I found myself far more capable with the bosses than in the video above. I think this would feel equally perfect on Switch, but it plays just fine on desktop too.

It’s charming, just so gorgeous, and provides a lovely time for those who don’t always want that hardcore grind of Hollow Knight and its even tougher brethren. I just love this, and suspect you will too.

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  1. Underwhelmed? Nah, loved it. The graphics are, of course, a big part of the charm, but the variety of gameplay modes and the map system do a lot for this one. More than anything, though, it just nails the absolute core essence of what a good Metroidvania is: guides you along nicely, makes upgrades meaningful and worth chasing, handles backtracking gracefully. Really a top effort all round.

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  2. Finally got around to this one, a few hours in and really enjoying its mix of gameplay styles, overall aesthetic and balanced difficulty. Its not the misery-core difficulty fest of a Hollow Knight that I just find so tedious

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