Len’s Island plops you down in the middle of a seemingly empty island. This would be a fever dream for so many hapless individuals, and so this game provides a beautiful, much-needed escape.
Solo developer Julian Ball formed Flow Studio to work on the epic exploration RPG. The indie studio’s journey was followed on their daily devlogs on YouTube by loyal fans eager to get their hands on a unique experience.
Len’s Island is available for PC on Steam (Early Access) for your regional pricing.
Story – Tabula Rasa
When I said that the game plops you right in the thick of the island, I mean it. You aren’t given any backstory or goals. You are just meant to… go. There aren’t any fellow adventurers or neighbors who will explain how the entire island works. There are a few in-menu tutorials and even hints to move you in the right direction.
This blank slate is fun and refreshing. Twice or thrice you’ll get a wall-of-text tutorial on something, but otherwise, you’re free to learn as you go. The way around the island is very intuitive, and many RPG players who played similar titles will have no problem getting around the island and the game itself. I can imagine newcomers might have a bit of a problem, but it might come back to them as a charming experience after they’ve found their feet in the Forgotten Island.
I found it so surprising that next to such a blank island is a town teeming with life and commerce. Bridgewater has a lot to offer the player in items and architectural inspiration. The NPCs are plentiful and promising – they have great 2D profiles! And for what? It’s a shame they couldn’t add a bit more flavor to the town, even if just a little in the beginning to make the place feel more alive.
However, there are hints about some story progression on the horizon, such as a little note on a cabin, unopenable doors that seem to lead somewhere, or NPCs that seem very important. I mean, after all, who or what exactly is “Len”? It’s these mysteries that make me keep playing this game!
Gameplay – Here, There, Everywhere
Everything on the island is yours for the taking. A large part of the game is simply taking off to wherever your whims take you, or to wherever makes the most sense.
I found myself drawing a map in my mind to help me figure out where I’ve been. After an hour or so, things already become familiar and shape up. I enjoyed the variety of the things we could collect, and at the hands of a very creative and patient in-game architect and decorator, they could definitely make something incredible from the impressive amount of building blocks the game is offering.
While I don’t think I’ve properly explored everything the current build of the game has to offer, I really enjoyed how the game ramped up the possibilities of crafting not only your house(s) but your inventory as well. They already start you off with a bunch of options for your home, but not enough to overwhelm you. As you get more and more invested in crafting, more and more tiers of available items pop up, challenging the completionist in you. As a collect-a-thon enthusiast, this made me very excited.
The combat feels equally well-done. Clicking to attack doesn’t feel monotonous, especially as you try to build combos. The variety of weapons you find, craft, and buy offer different ways of approaching combat. I found myself very focused on my onhand capabilities and trying to master the hot bar under my fingertips. I found combat fun and intense especially when a lot of enemies start appearing on screen and I start stocking up on the berries I farmed for the cave excavation. Shout out to the smooth and slick combat animations, too.
While the experience for both exploration and combat modes is pretty good, the incessant clicking mechanic for harvesting goods can get a little tiring. It feels fine for combat, as the real-time action depends on your reflexes, and you’re gonna want to do all those bonus combos and special moves. However, the clicking is a bit excessive for what are supposed to be relaxing activities.
Audio and Graphics – Moody Adventures
The beautiful island you now live in features crystal clear waters and predator-free lush foliage. Save for some littered glass bottles at the beach and the occasional fierce bee colony from a tree you just cut down, life on the island is clean and peaceful. Capturing this serene atmosphere in a simple art style is such a great accomplishment.
However, once you start to explore the depths of the mysterious caves and unravel the meaning behind the stone arrangements on the island, you feel things take on a magical, almost ominous turn. These ominous glowing objects seem almost inviting in the darkness of the caves you explore, and you’re only encouraged to keep exploring further.
The ambiance of either section is amazing, thanks to the beautiful music that accompanies your path and the environmental sounds packaged into the scenery that makes it all feel more alive. The scattered design of dilapidated buildings gives a sense of history to the island, injecting a bit more personality.
The art direction of the game is also amazing. Low-poly without sacrificing too much detail, the assets are smartly designed in that they look pleasant to the eye and you still completely understand what is in front of you. The lighting effects that cast a different light on your shenanigans and a wonderful reflection of the day-to-night cycle.
Again, I’ll appreciate the animations of our player character. Every movement feels good and deliberate, especially because of these small animations for every action.
Len’s Island was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Decibel PR.