I’ve always been a sucker for survival-crafting games — especially those that don’t ask too much of you (Green Hell, I’m looking at you with weary eyes and a ravenous desire to enact revenge on the troubles you caused me). More to the point, I’m a sucker for a game that fosters a simple, clean, and relatively pain-free experience that doesn’t go much beyond the basics. In ways, this perfectly describes the likes of Snowcastle Games’ Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure—a straightforward top-down survival-crafting game about orphans, pirates, and an archipelago of broken islands in dire need of repairs and a new reason to stay afloat. That’ll do, pig — that’ll do.
I won’t pretend that I haven’t seen this sort of thing countless times before, because I have — more times than I dare to admit, even. But then, given the fact that I, along with millions of other fledgling builders and farmhands, have continued to make every effort to absorb each new project into the fold, regardless of their blatant similarities, I think it’s fair to say that, really, it’s something of a timeless formula. The question is, how does Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure compare with other games of its kind, or better yet, how does it establish its own identity as a needle in one of many, many haystacks? Let’s jump right in and talk about it.
All Aboard the Shores
Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure tells the tale of four distinctly different orphans—a quartet of unlikely swashbuckling heroes who, in the wake of discovering an old raft, wind up at the tropical shores of a mysterious island. Upon arrival, the four-piece stumble into a frog—a desperate creature that asks for one thing and one thing only: repair the shrines of the island, and allow them to heal the broken bones of the once-loved archipelago of rain-soaked biomes.
To start out, you only possess the bare essentials—a pocketful of items, and perhaps enough to fashion a small weapon out of a blade of grass. In a true survival-crafting manner, however, the deeper you travel inland, the more resources you will begin to acquire — and with more resources to hand, of course, means more blueprints to craft and develop. For the beginning, though, the goals are simple, and pretty much spread out on a silver platter; collect a frog here, and slice a patch of grass over there, sort of thing.
As soon as you commence your epic quest to reassemble the shrines and return color to the island, you’ll have access to each of the four orphans, all of whom have their own vibrant personalities and unique-ish skill sets. The only caveat here is that, while you can storm ahead and make progress with one of the characters, the remaining three will stay behind and wait for you to tug on their strings. In other words, you won’t have all three of your friends tagging along for the ride, as they’ll essentially resort to skipping stones at the shoreline for as long as you choose to neglect them. Sorry, not sorry.
To Find Peace…
If you’ve ever so much as nibbled at the tip of a survival-crafting game before, then you’ll know exactly what to expect from this: a nifty hotbar that’s conveniently glued to the bottom of your screen, and an entire world of usable natural resources and other rarities that are ripe for the taking. It’s a blueprint that’s been around for decades, for sure, and so, if you did happen to have any concerns about Ikonei Island fostering a suite that’s inaccessible and overcrowded, then fear not, basically. This is, for lack of a better word, simple, clean-cut, textbook survival-crafting 101 — without the drawn-out tutorials and unforgiving prologues, à la Conan Exiles.
Gameplay-wise, there isn’t a great deal to onboard. In fact, if you’re not scooting around from one portion of the island to the next, then you’re collecting resources to either build a tool, or begin the construction of a vital piece of infrastructure for the world and its inhabitants. Like the vast majority of survival-crafting games, the lion’s share of the journey is mostly made up of returning old shacks and stores to their former glory, and utilizing their products in order to complete quests and venture deeper into the island for—you guessed it—more quests and extracurricular activities.
As you shovel through the first few sections of the island, the option to befriend power-wielding creatures becomes available—a feature that allows you to take full advantage of their chosen skill sets, whether it’s digging, fishing, or some other generic habit. As you develop your friendships with these likable critters, you’ll eventually have the power to take control of them—an option that, if you’re lucky, results in additional rewards and other goodies.
A Home for the Wholesome
Although there’s a whole lot of fun to be had in and around the bustling biomes of Ikonei, none of it is anything we haven’t already seen before. Sure enough, there is crafting, and yes, there is a storyline of some sort, albeit one that doesn’t really go much further than the bog-standard “build it, and they will come” setup that we’ve seen thousands of times before. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad game, mind you — but it is awfully predictable, which might steer several players away from picking it up and giving it a run for its money.
On the other hand, Ikonei Island is clearly a good-looking work of art, made all the more visually appealing by its band of characters and other charming locales. It’s also an easy game to pick up and play, too, as it doesn’t feature a death penalty for making a wrong turn, or even falling at the hands of an enemy, for that matter. And while you can faint, it never knocks you back much farther than a short ways down the road. What’s more, as most of its “challenges” are puzzle-based and in no way, shape, or form, reliant on wall-to-wall combat and intricate mechanics and what have you, it does make for an extremely easy journey from the moment you wash ashore, to the second you rebuild the final shrine.
The fact that the game also comes loaded with a four-player co-op mode does boost the overall durability of the product, too. For those who’d much rather slug through the campaign on their own terms, though, there isn’t much point in taking control of any of the three dormant characters, as the one is more than enough for the tasks at hand.
It’s no secret that Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure is a very beautiful game—picture-perfect, even, made all the more picturesque by its web of colorful characters, original biomes, and minimalistic UI. It’s also no secret that, in spite of its best efforts to pose a challenge or two for a mature audience, it is, for lack of a better word, a children’s game. But that doesn’t matter, as the game itself is so welcoming, that it’s almost impossible to give it a cold shoulder and sweep it beneath the rug altogether.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love here, especially if you’re one for pouring dozens of hours into relatively monotonous tasks for small rewards and bite-sized stepping stones that lead to an eventual climax. It isn’t a fast-paced game by any means, nor is it an action-packed RPG with oceans of loot and monsters to shovel through, either. With that said, it is, when all’s said and done, a genuinely great little crafting sim that ticks all of the right boxes — even at the cost of losing its own identity.
If you haven’t put two and two together just yet, then just know this: Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure is a bread-and-butter survival-crafting game that builds on the exact same bones as dozens of other cult classics, including Stardew Valley and Coral Island. If you can onboard that, and accept the fact that it doesn’t go much further than the generic blueprint, then you’ll no doubt roll into Snowcastle Games’ latest IP with nothing but joy. However, if you’re after something that makes more of an effort to break away from the usual tropes and signature ingredients of a survival-crafting game, then you might want to consider switching lanes and planting roots in an alternate universe.
Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure Review (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch & PC)
If the Key Fits…
Ikonei Island: An Earthlock Adventure doesn’t necessarily revamp the core nodes of a bog-standard survival-crafting game, but as the saying goes: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.