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Why not try out this blissful oceanic Zelda-style puzzler

New wave

A puzzle from Isles of Sea and Sky, with a large block that needs several keys to bypass.
Image credit: Jason Newman and Craig Collver

Friend, are you weary of talk of blockbuster space-faring RPGs and blockbuster D&D adaptations and blockbusters in general? Do you yearn for the older, simpler days before the great Unrealification and the invention of sex scenes, when people called a spike pit a spike pit, and you could count all the different colours in a screenshot on your fingers? Do you, in fact, reject this framing of retro-styled 2D pixelart games as "older" and "simpler", regarding it as condescending and false? Look, shut up already. I'm trying to tell you about Isles of Sea and Sky from developers Jason Newman, Dan Collver and Craig Collver.

It's an oceanic, non-linear puzzle game that mixes sokoban with Game Boy Color visuals and pungent notes of Link's Awakening, in which you push blocks and ring bells to gather keys and stars while pursuing a wordless narrative "centered around the myth of creation". Katharine highlighted it in her round-up of games to play at the EGX 2023 Leftfield Collection. I've just had a quick try myself, and it seems fantastic. Here's a rather gorgeous animated trailer.

Watch on YouTube

You play a bear-chested buck with huge hair who wakes on a seashore and promptly starts solving puzzles. The puzzles are single-screen arrangements of shovable objects, bells that cause other blocks to disappear, and terrain traps such as crystal barriers that solidify behind you when you step off the tile in question. It's immediately engrossing, and the visuals are lovely. It's also moderately forgiving: the puzzles are sprinkled around an archipelago which you explore on the back of a giant turtle, so you can always venture elsewhere if something's baking your noodle.

The demo - available on Steam or Itch - is apparently two or three hours long and lets you save, making it a nice little pick-up-and-put-down distraction in itself. I'm curious about the creation myth storyline, especially in light of the Link's Awakening parallels. If this gets your motor running, you might also be interested in the PC makeover of Trip World DX.

Update - a few readers point out that this game was previously known as Akurra, referring to a story told by the Adnyamathanha people of South Australia. The dev's reasoning for the name change is worth reading in full. Here's an excerpt:

"[A]fter a lot of consideration and thought, I believe that taking the name Akurra and using it for my own myth would be a form of cultural erasure. For most people in the Western world, their only exposure to it would be through my game.

"Since my game is not a retelling of the story of Akurra, it would influence and overwrite many people's understanding of it, and the Adnyamathanha people in South Australia and many other indigenous groups around the world already struggle enough with these kinds of issues."

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