Of all the games we’ve looked at in the past, IslandFest is perhaps most similar to Playdom’s Tiki Resort or CrowdStar’s Happy Island. Essentially, the objective is to create the perfect tourist hot spot upon a small spit of land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. However, in order to do so, players must manage four different sets of criteria.
Unlike its rivals, visitors to your island don’t fly or sail in for a few minutes and leave. In order to keep your guests, you need to provide proper lodging. Each “hotel,” as it were, consists of pretty much anything to put a roof over one’s head and consist of everything from shoddy tents and shacks to luxurious hotels. Each hotel-structure will also provide a set number of visitors it can hold and will produce X amount of coin per Y amount of hours, with the player having to clean them periodically (lest they will no longer earn money).
Now as far as income goes, hotels are good, but as any tourism officer can tell you, a vast majority of overall spending comes from shopping. Be it cold beer, hot dogs, or souvenirs you really don’t need, people buy it all. To that end, users must also create any number of these shops and vendor stands to supplement their income; coming back to claim their earnings from time to time.
Unfortunately, while money is nice, having a means to earn it is a bit pointless if you have no visitors in the first place. This is where leisure and the Island Rating come in to play. If tourists intend to spend a couple thousand to vacation in the islands, you’d better bet they want to be entertained in some way. As such, players must construct various leisure buildings to improve their rating. Now, for the record, it is unclear as to whether or not your Island Rating increases the number of visitors/spending as the game never actually says yes or no to that, but it seems the most logical.
Nonetheless, the structures themselves vary from necessity (bathrooms and showers), to golf courses and waterfalls, with the latter items unlocking at later levels. Of course, as expensive as the leisure structures are, a level gate is almost pointless as if you don’t intend to buy any virtual currency and trade it for in-game money, you won’t be able to afford it anyway. Regardless, unlike the previous game elements, these buildings earn no income. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for some (i.e. a pub or casino) but that’s really just picking nits. What they do grant is a fraction of a star point toward that 5 Star Island Rating. To give you some perspective, the lowest leisure building gives 0.05 stars, while the highest gives 0.17 stars.
The last aspect to manage is what is called “Travel Points.” It is sort of an invisible stat as none of the buildings you can create tell you how much they give, but as we placed decorations and new structures we earned points in this category. In fact, even visiting a friend’s island in the tutorial stages earned Travel Points, suggesting that having more friends to visit on a daily basis will make earning these easier.
This becomes prudent as Travel Points, combined with your guest capacity, is what determines your level. That’s right, IslandFest is one of the first Facebook games in a very, very long time that doesn’t have an experience bar. Well, technically anyway. It does have a progress bar that visibly shows the percentage of completion towards your next level. However, in order to get that level, one simple does not just do everything that earns experience points. They must actually manage their resources in order to meet the requirements of X amount of guests (determined by hotels) and Y amount of Travel Points (determined by décor).
Socially, IslandFest is about what one might expect for a tycoon type of game. As was mentioned already, players can visit each other’s islands, presumably to earn extra travel points, but also to simply see how they are progressing. Surprisingly, however, there is no built in, always visible leaderboard system at the bottom of the screen. It seems simple, yes, but without it, some of the competitiveness that comes between friends playing such games is lost: Out of sight, out of mind. Other than this, the app has all the standard social elements such as gifting (or asking for gifts) friends, achievements, and your typical feed posts when you do something significant.
As far as complaints go, the visual style brings the island together fairly well, but other than a few non-player characters doing random things here and there for a second or two, the world feels a bit static. Buildings are empty, very few things move, things that do move are simplistic and flat, and it almost feels like your guests are walking about a ghost town. Of all the tycoon games we’ve reviewed, the best example of a space feeling alive would be Social City where its residents play ball, mow lawns, fly kites, and a metric ton more.
Additionally, the space you decorate, itself, is a bit drab. It’s literally a block of sand in the middle of the ocean. This isn’t to say the player should have the ability to terraform their space (though it would be cool for all tycoon games), but they should just get a more complex, interesting shape to work with; something with hills and elevation. In fact, it would also be nice to manually edit the ground as well with paths, dirt, grass, etc.
Overall, IslandFest is a pretty fun game that does have a wonderful tropical feel to it. Furthermore, there is enough to manage to keep the game interesting and fun, and while it is a game type most have played before, it does still feel a little bit fresh. That said, it does suffer from a lack of style. While most of the game does look technically good, it just feels static and dead. Luckily, with the core of the game strong, the rest is comparatively simple to fix. We look forward to seeing how well this tropical destination takes off.