A children’s game about saving the environment, getting bank loans, and learning about exchange rates published by a major banking company in the United Kingdom. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, huh? However, 9 hours of gameplay later, I am pleased to say that this game is… great? Yes, great. This game is genuinely great.
It is basically a cross between ‘Slime Rancher’ and ‘Viva Pinata’ as the player is tasked with cleaning 4 littered islands in order to re-attract the lost “bankimals” (animals that also function as piggy banks; I know it sounds weird but it makes sense in context… sort of). Once you clean an area enough (by sucking up empty bottles and glasses off the ground and spraying black goop away with some good ol’ water) and plant some food for the bankimals, they come back and fill themselves with said food. At that point, you suck the coins out of their bodies and they become a permanent, healthy inhabitant of the island. You then use these coins to buy bottle-sucker upgrades, more seeds, unlock new areas, and more. There are dozens of unique bankimals and a couple of dozen different plants that can be grown to feed them. Each island has a couple of different ridable animals that help you traverse otherwise un-traversable environments (for example, you need the tiger to be able to swim and make your way across certain water sections). The islands are quite varied as well as there are snow environments, beach environments, desert environments, and even an entire dinosaur island. It took me approximately 9 hours to 100% all 4 islands.
Since ‘Island Saver’ is a children’s game, it is fairly un-challenging. It requires very little mechanical skill and very little thinking. However, it does an excellent job at setting up a pleasing gameplay loop. I don’t go around spending 9 hours on children’s games all the time, you know. It takes something like this to grip me and keep me involved for that amount of time. And ‘Island Saver’ might just be the best children’s game I have ever played (as an experienced 27 year old gamer, I found that almost the entire game was designed in a way where more advanced players could perform “skips”, whether it was skipping jumps or taking alternate paths to save a bit of time (if this was accidental then that’s amazing, but it seemed like I was spotting alternate paths way too much for it to be unintentional); the biggest “skip” that I found was making a seemingly impossible jump with the tiger and climbing to the end of the level… without unlocking the golden lock – I think this one was unintentional).
Now, on to some of the criticisms. Don’t expect much in terms of options as you can’t rebind any of the keys or customize many audio/visual options. The movement also feels a bit more floaty than it should be as it is sort of easy to slide off platforms or edges, though the game is un-punishing so its not a huge deal (some of the game’s edges get really weird sometimes which caused me to fall into the water/lava and reset multiple times – these edges would basically “catch” my character and forcibly slide me off the edge). There is a decent amount of back-tracking which can sometimes suck but the islands are small and interconnected so it really doesn’t take long to move to where you need to go (especially once you unlock the mount for each island).
As for the game’s business model, it is incredibly simple yet effective and fair. The base game is entirely free which nets you 3 out of 4 islands. There are no micro-transactions or paywalls when it comes to base game content. However, the dinosaur island costs about $5 which is otherwise inaccessible. This gives players a fair chance to assess the game’s worth before spending the money on the 4th island. If you have completed the first 3 islands, I would say that the dinosaur island is absolutely worth the money (you get the game’s only flying mount which is a bit wonky to control, but its a dinosaur so who cares, just buy it). If you didn’t like the game at any point between the first 3 islands, well… you didn’t spend any money whatsoever.
For children, this game is a whole-hearted recommendation. The business model is fair, the content is educational yet fun, and the game is surprisingly cute and incredibly well done. For adults, this game is still a whole-hearted recommendation. If you liked games like ‘Viva Pinata’, you will like this. Nowhere near as in-depth but a completely relaxing experience and a great change of pace.
8/10 – Great