I forged ahead into Islands of Insight’s opening hours, braving the floating terrain and diving into some devious puzzles that had me digging deep to uncover the solutions. As a blend between The Witness’ sprawling first-person puzzle box and some Breath of the Wild-style exploration, Islands of Insight is filled to the brim with challenges and intrigue, presenting a puzzle game with some compelling ideas for building a strange and intriguing setting where you and other players can solve puzzles together. So far, Islands of Insight has the makings of a game that could build an ambitious new path for puzzle adventures.
Taking on the role of a Seeker, you’re given new life in a world that defies time and space, built up from the memories of ancient eras long passed. The Seekers, tasked with acquiring knowledge by sentient Sparks of energy, must pull back the layers of this fragmented landmass by completing puzzles and other feats of intuition to piece together the origins of the strange land of floating islands.
Playing Islands of Insight is a surprisingly laid-back experience primarily about exploring and completing challenges at your own pace. Once you create your custom Seeker in the character creation menu, you’re whisked away to the floating islands to uncover the larger mystery of how it all came into being. With its structure as an open-world exploration game, not unlike The Witness, you’ll come across puzzles to solve varying difficulties, yielding lore and experience to help your seeker gain new abilities to overcome larger challenges.
I liked how Islands of Insight leans into its intriguing setting. As a dreamscape built from the remnants of historical locales such as Ancient Egypt and stitched with lush forests, it evokes a whimsical but still mysterious setting. As you unlock more regions and areas after goals and milestone puzzles are solved, you’ll see even more of the weirder setting. And once you unlock the ability to glide, you’ll get a great view of it all, adding to the mystery of what this world is.
Scattered across every region are points of interest and nodes that take you into puzzle challenges. You’ll start with solving the relatively simple tile-based puzzles involving synchronizing the same colored spaces, but eventually, new types come into focus. These include optical illusions and perspective-based puzzles where you have to manually position yourself into a place in the land to find the solution.
I enjoyed seeing the breadth of challenges layered into each region. While not quite a Metroidvania when it comes to exploration, it focuses on learning the ins and outs of each region to find the hidden puzzles to tackle.
To that end, I was constantly finding fun puzzles to solve, such as challenges involving matching fractal images. Some of my favorite moments came from seeing a glint of an object in the distance and choosing to head over to it. In one case, I found a light-obstacle course built within a glass maze. I felt a sense of satisfaction for completing the challenge and that my curiosity was rewarded for taking the time to make a detour.
While I played Islands of Insight solo, the game is a shared world experience where you and other players can roam around as a team. I wish I could have explored this aspect more. Insight carries a surprising amount of customization and unlocks to decorate your Seeker. Exploring a traditionally solitary experience with friends has the makings for a fun twist, and I hope we’ll see the game leverage team play compellingly.
Whether you’re solo or grouped up, though, I found that while other puzzle games that tackle more significant concepts can sometimes be an exercise in patience, what interested me about Islands of Insight is that they provide a decidedly chill and laid-back experience for a sprawling puzzle adventure.
Sometimes, I felt frustrated with some puzzles; one stuck me for ten minutes before I gave up on it. But once I came back to the challenge after exploring and finishing goals elsewhere, I could complete it after finding the solution and proceeded to kick myself for not seeing it sooner. Even when there were moments where some puzzles felt a bit repetitive or even downright devious in trying to figure out what to do, I still found exploring and finding other things to do to be the great antidote for those frustrations.
In a way, that sums up the experience of playing Islands of Insight. For every challenge that may seem impossible, other puzzles just off the beaten path can give you the added insight and change in perspective to complete the more significant tasks. You essentially have the run of the floating islands, and I appreciated that you get to progress at your own pace.
Islands of Insight presents such a unique setting for an open-world puzzle game and shows a level of craft that made me want to explore further to see just how strange and gorgeous this world can get.