Island Maze – Nintendo Switch
Developed and Published by: Drageus Games
Category: Puzzle Game
Release Date: 20th of September 2019
Island Maze is a thoughtful puzzler that lures you in with a simple concept, only to blindside you with increasingly difficult challenges in each and every level. In many ways I believe the game should be part of the soulslike genre, due to the number of times I tried and failed to complete a puzzle, but I fear it would make Dark Souls seem too easy.
In Island Maze you’re tasked with getting a cube from one point to another within a certain number of moves. The more moves you make, the closer you come to the cap for three, two, or one diamonds, with three being the best score. The more diamonds you earn, the more levels you unlock, which is really important for when you need to take a break from one level and try another out for a while.
The challenges in Island Maze become increasingly difficult as you work through the levels. Initially players need to pick up coloured diamonds, which slot into place on the cube they control, and pass over squares on the ground with those same diamonds in. If players don’t cross over the diamond square using the side of the cube with that diamond in, the cube will crumble.
This is where the challenge in Island Maze comes into play, requiring players to shift the cube around until the two diamonds will meet as the player passes over the squares. If players take too many turns to perfect this, then they’ll only get one or two diamonds for passing. As levels get steadily more complicated, introducing multiple diamonds and squares to pass over, the difficulty of getting the perfect number of moves intensifies.
Later levels bring magnetic plates into the mix. A new pickup that magnetises one side of the cube adds a layer of thoughtfulness that must be put into every move. When these magnetic plates are combined with the coloured diamonds, things can get really tricky, leading to the kind of rage quits I would usually associate with Dark Souls.
None of that is to say that Island Maze isn’t fun however. On the contrary, I had a great time with this little puzzler, not least because it gave me a lot to think about both whilst I was playing it, and while I wasn’t. After multiple attempts at a level, the feeling of sheer elation you get from finally completing it is comparable only to what you feel when you defeat Ornstein and Smough.
When I started playing Island Maze I found the visuals to be instantly charming. Everything is made from a geometric shape, from the cube players move around, to the edges of each level, and even the beautiful blue sea that rolls away in the background.
Levels in Island Maze take the form of islands, hence the title. This gives each level an organic feel to it that sets them apart from most other puzzle titles. The cubes, magnetic plates, and diamonds feel like invaders in this organic world of sea, stone, and grass. Giving the whole game an otherworldly atmosphere.
It’s almost as if the world was obliterated by bombs, and these moving cubes and hunks of metal or minerals are all that have been left behind.
Island Maze is a great little puzzle game that will happily eat up a few hours of your life if you let it. While some levels feel almost artificially difficult, you often find that a change in approach will help you solve them once and for all. There’s a good amount of replayability to the game, with each level’s perfect score always just out of reach as you try it one last time.
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A review code was provided to The Switch Effect from the developer.