Game news While waiting for Hollow Knight Silksong, I discovered a new handmade metroidvania
I went to attack Islets and its monsters. And if the title did not allow me to fulfill the expectation 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 upcoming arrival of Hollow Knight Silksong. Yes, I was one of those who hoped at each new conference a hint of information on this long-awaited title. I’m still a little, still desperately waiting for a release date. But nothing helps, the developers at Team Cherry have nothing to do with relieving my nerves. So, like an addict unable to get his drug, I’m open to any type of substitute that could allow me to fret while waiting. 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 it to my beloved Hollow Knight, what more could you ask for? So off I go to live the surprisingly endearing adventures of Iko, a clumsy hero in search of glory.
This is an indie column on JV:
There’s Wanted, your new column about 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, like a post and with a few video extracts.
A cartoon look
Let me tell you about a joyful time when the five celestial islands were united to form one single ecosystem. A prosperous and welcoming ecosystem, balanced by this fortuitous unity. It was good to live in the world of Islets at that time. But as you can imagine, that time is over. The five islands regained their independence, plunging the world of Islets into chaos. Since that day, many have hoped to become the hero who will manage to reunite the islands again and rid them of their monsters. This is particularly the case of our little Iko, the mouse who is not a hero. He doesn’t have a big ship, no feats on his board… But yet the unconfident 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. Quickly, we want to help him in his quest, to see him improve, become stronger, defeat more monsters and become the hero he dreams of so much. With simplicity and tenderness, the title of Kyle Thompson took me by the hand to make me travel for an hour in a marvelous and singular world.
If the handmade side reminded me at first sight of Hollow Knight, a few minutes on the island of Norstable are enough for me to realize that Islets is actually very 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. It would not have surprised me to learn that it was an adaptation of an Adventure Time cartoon. Like the latter, we feel that under its simplistic features, Islets has much more to offer. I take a particular satisfaction in reading through Mika’s letters between two fights or in crossing paths with this fearful knight like no other who always hopes to find the courage to become a hero too. This benevolence is not insignificant and gives us to see a particularly enviable vision of the world and social relationships, while trying out some darker subjects (death, loneliness, etc.) I’m curious to see how far Islets can go from this point of view, although I suspect that he 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 title of Extremely OK Games. Between the benevolent atmosphere, the colors and some platforming mechanics, this little metroidvania looks like a little celestial brother. But Islets remains a very frail child compared to his elders.
Is not Hollow Knight who wants
Again, launching Islets hoping to find a new Hollow Knight there is not a good idea. This is rarely the case. And with a metroidvania juggernaut like the title Team Cherry, 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 itself alongside its companions. I myself winced at the rigidity of the movements, the lack of complexity in the fights or the lack of depth in the animations. Islets is sometimes a little too simple in its realization, but it does not prevent that it is with pleasure that I would relaunch this singular 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 shut up our rival or not to let Iko down. Or maybe it’s the irrepressible need to discover the different islands, rummage in every nook and cranny, fill the bestiary…? Because yes, we take pleasure in retracing our steps to explore this singular world once the double jump has been learned. 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 even has the right to a few clues to find out where he needs to go (and not go around in circles, impatient, without ever finding the next step). A small detail for me, but which will mean a lot to those who have torn their hair out searching for hours for a new path. Casually, I was surprised by these few thoughtful points scattered throughout the game, making for a singular and well-thought-out experience.
Especially since despite its young age and lack of experience, Petit Islets is innovating. Who says metroidvania, says a certain evolution of explorable areas. New ones open up to Iko as he unlocks improvements… but not only. The islands, interlocking, form new paths, create new possibilities. The explorer in me is delighted at 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 more distant lands. Not sure that in the long run this part will prove to be fundamentally interesting, but it still has the merit of diversifying the gaming experience. So no, Islets is not just Hollow Knight’s little brother. Granted, he can’t come close to his ankle, but he is, in many ways, so much more than that. Islets may not claim to be perfect, but has the merit of bringing a slightly new mix, an enchanting parenthesis and full of benevolence. I’m not going to lie to you, at the end of the year I might have forgotten the existence of Islets. In a few weeks, the nasal noises of young Iko will only be a distant memory. But I am delighted to have been able to spend this little moment in the air with this hero in the making.
Islets is aimed less at metroidvania fans than at lovers of endearing experiences. But if you like both, you might be charmed by the simplicity of this little indie title. The game is already available on PC, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.