Life’s Lovely But Lonely on Len’s Island

Len’s Island Preview

Len’s Island is a survival/crafting/farming game set on a bucolic island paradise. What’s the hook, you ask? After all, there are close to a gagillion (by my count) games in the genre. What makes Len’s Island stand out is literally what’s underneath the surface.

Topside, the island is peaceful and lush. You do the crafting and building types of things common to all these games. There’s chopping wood and carrying water, as the Zen saying goes. Or you can quarry stone, gather seeds and plant crops. Every inch can be scavenged for salvage. Then you build a workbench, a forge and all the other workshop-y kinds of things you need. You build a home, and it can be quite lovely and elaborate.

In general, Len’s Island makes building easy. Everything is modular. The gathering, farming, wood cutting and all the rest is painless and streamlined. There’s no being over-burdened and you can speed up gathering with a little minigame. The early minutes of the game breeze by and you feel almost immediately productive, if directionless.

As you explore deeper, you seen signs of habitation and some mysterious warnings. Soon after, you find a cave.

Clunky Spelunky

The danger and drama of Len’s Island is underground. There, monsters and deadly creatures lurk in the shadows and at first, you’re ill-equipped to deal with combat.  Eventually, you make a torch and better weapons. Unfortunately, you can’t just play it safe and stay on the surface, so you go into the dungeons because that’s where many important materials and weapons are found. Also, it can get a little boring when all you do is putter happily around on the island.

Most games in this genre aren’t known for their stories, and Len’s Island is no exception. While there are secrets to discover and even other people, there’s not much of a plot, especially at first. The developers hope that you’ll stumble onto the mechanics and figure things out. Anyone who’s played these kinds of games will have no trouble.

Len’s Island is built for mouse or keyboard control. In theory it can sort of be played with a controller, but there’s no way to remap button assignments. It’s a shame that the game doesn’t implement gamepad control better, because it’s a perfect, chill game to kick back with. Combat would feel more intuitive with a controller, too. The game’s UI is simple and minimally intrusive.

Painterly Paradise

Although its character creator is pretty rudimentary, Len’s Island is lovely. Above ground, it’s colorful, cartoony and relaxing to look at. It’s dark and menacing in the dungeons. Visually, it’s an easy game to enjoy for long stretches of time. It isn’t entirely optimized yet, and there was a bit of jitter in the shadows. There aren’t many graphics settings to adjust.

The music is subtle, melodic and as soothing as the art style, fading in and out during exploration. The ambient nature sounds are spare but effective. The effect is relaxing…maybe a little too much so.

Either by design or not, Len’s Island feels like a lonely place. Being able to share resource gathering and building with friends in co-op would make the experience richer and less repetitive.

With so many engaging survival/crafting games available, why should you play Len’s Island?

Len’s Island has a beautiful and inviting art style, simple controls and easy to get into mechanics. The twist of adding combat-focused dungeons that are somewhat optional allows players to choose their approach. Although it’s a bit lonely, the process of exploring, farming, crafting and building is relaxing and fun. The island and dungeons are interesting to explore. As it moves through early access, the developer plans to add multiplayer, more story content, quests and NPCs. Len’s Island is worth looking at now, and I’m even more interested to see the two-person project develop into the final game.

***PC code provided by the developer for preview**