game news While waiting for Hollow Knight Silksong, I discovered a new handmade metroidvania.
I went to attack Islets and their monsters. And if the title did not allow me to live up to the expectations of Hollow Knight Silksong, it still allowed me to live a charming and surprising experience.
I’m not going to lie to you: I’m one of those players who can’t wait for the next arrival of Hollow Knight Silksong. Yes, I was one of those who expected some hint of information about this long-awaited title at each new conference. I’m still kind of, still desperately waiting for a release date. But nothing helps, Team Cherry developers have nothing to do with easing my nerves. So as an addict who can’t get the drug from him, I’m open to any kind of substitute that allows me to worry while I wait. So when I came across this little hand-drawn metroidvania developed by two brothers, I didn’t hesitate for a second. Especially since all the articles I had read compared him to my beloved Hollow Knight, what more could you ask for? So I’m off to experience the surprisingly endearing adventures of Iko, a bumbling hero on a quest for glory.
This is an independent review on JV:
There’s Wanted, your new column on quirky and fun indie games, and there’s this column. It is dedicated to the narrative games that we want you to discover, in a slightly more personal register, as a post and with some video excerpts.
a cartoon look
Let me tell you about a joyful moment when the five heavenly islands came together to form a single ecosystem. A prosperous and welcoming ecosystem, balanced by this fortuitous unity. It was good to live in the world of the islets at that time. But as you can imagine, that time is over. The five islands regained their independence, plunging the world of the islets into chaos. Since that day, many have hoped to become the hero who will bring the islands back together and rid them of their monsters. This is particularly the case with our little Iko, the mouse who is not a hero. He doesn’t have a big ship, he doesn’t have any achievements on his board… But nevertheless, the suspicious Iko left everything he had to help others. Far from the phlegmatic hero of Hollow Knight, Iko is as endearing as he is weak and childish. Quick, we want to help you on your quest, see you improve, get stronger, defeat more monsters and become the hero you dream of. With simplicity and tenderness, the title of Kyle Thompson took me by the hand to make me travel for an hour in a wonderful and unique world.
If the handmade side reminded me at first glance of Hollow Knight, a few minutes on Norstable Island is enough to realize that Islets is actually quite different.. Forget the mysteries and darkness of the first because the second has a more refined and colorful artistic direction, almost childish in certain aspects. I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that it was an adaptation of an Adventure Time cartoon. Like the latter, we believe that beneath its simplistic features, Islets has much more to offer. I take particular satisfaction in reading Mika’s letters between two fights or in crossing paths with this fearsome knight like no other who always hopes to find the courage to become a hero as well. This benevolence is not minor and gives us to see a vision of the world and of social relations especially enviable, while rehearsing some darker themes (death, loneliness, etc.) I’m curious to see how far Islets can go from this vantage point, although I suspect it won’t go as far as a Celeste for example. An example that is not chosen at random, because in many ways Islets reminds me of the Extremely OK Games title. Between the benevolent atmosphere, the colors, and some platforming mechanics, this little metroidvania looks like a heavenly little brother. But Islets is still a very fragile child compared to his elders.
Isn’t it Hollow Knight who wants
Again, launching Islets in the hope of finding a new Hollow Knight is not a good idea. This is rarely the case. And with a metroidvania behemoth like the Team Cherry title, it’s the best way to end up disappointed. Let’s face it, Islets still has a long way to go to find a place for himself alongside his teammates. I myself cringed at the stiffness of the movements, the lack of complexity in the fights or the lack of depth in the animations. Islets is sometimes a bit too simple in its realization, but that doesn’t stop it from being a pleasure to relaunch this unique little adventure. I don’t know if it’s all this benevolence we were talking about above or the particularly pleasant handling. I don’t know if it’s the desire to silence our rival or not to disappoint Iko. Or maybe it’s the irrepressible need to discover the different islands, search every corner, fill the bestiary…? Because yes, we are happy to retrace our steps to explore this unique world once we have learned the double jump. A game that invites exploration, that’s what all good metroidvania is supposed to be. For Islets, the mission seems successful. To avoid any frustration, Iko is even entitled to a few clues as to where she needs to go (and not going around impatiently in circles, never finding the next step). A small detail for me, but it will mean a lot to those who have tore their hair out looking for a new path for hours. Coincidentally, I was surprised by these few thoughtful points scattered throughout the game, making for a singular and well-thought-out experience.
Especially since despite his young age and lack of experience, Petit Islets is innovating. Who says metroidvania, says a certain evolution of the explorable areas. New ones open up for Iko as he unlocks upgrades… but not only. The islands, intertwined, form new paths, create new possibilities. The explorer in me loves the idea of being able to discover this map, which is more complex than it seems. And then there is my little ship, which I hope to see grow to take me to ever richer and farther lands. I’m not sure this part will turn out to be fundamentally interesting in the long run, but it still has the merit of diversifying the gameplay experience, so no, Islets isn’t just Hollow Knight’s little brother. Of course, she can’t get close to his ankle, but she is, in many ways, much more than that. Islets may not claim to be perfect, but it has the merit of bringing a slightly new mix, a charming and benevolent parenthesis. I’m not going to lie to you, by the end of the year I may have forgotten the existence of Islets. In a few weeks, young Iko’s nostrils will be just a distant memory. But I am delighted that I was able to spend this little moment in the air with this budding hero.
Islotes is aimed less at metroidvania fans than at lovers of endearing experiences. But if you like both, you might love the simplicity of this little indie title. The game is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
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