The dust has settled on Summer Game Fest, and all I can think about is this epic shared open-world game

Islands of Insight
(Image credit: Behavior Interactive)

From Starfield to Star Wars Outlaws, Mortal Kombat 1 and Assassin's Creed: Mirage, Summer Game Fest was jam-packed with big budget, top-level AAA games. The dust has now settled following the blockbuster event in Los Angeles, and while I'm buzzing to see more from all of the above (and everything else that showed up) in the coming weeks and months – there is one game that captured my imagination and heart from the outset on the show floor. 

With its sun-kissed shared world, its sprawling mass of floating islands, its knife-edge drops, chilled out vibes, and myriad puzzles, Behavior Interactive and Lunarch Studios' Islands of Insight is unquestionably my jam. I was fortunate enough to attend Summer Game Fest 2023 in-person, and while I was impressed with a number of the big-hitters on display, Islands of Insight was my personal pick of the show. 

Riddle me this

Islands of Insight

(Image credit: Behavior Interactive)

The Witness

(Image credit: Jonathan Blow)

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"Welcome to Islands of Insight, an epic shared world puzzle adventure game set in a world of fantasy, ancient wonders and natural beauty," says the narrator at the beginning of the game's reveal trailer. "Brimming with mysterious puzzles, secrets and sublime landscapes for you and other players to discover, alone or together, all at your own pace." 

Honestly, I'd be sold on that description alone, but seeing Islands of Insights' gorgeous fantasy sprawl – packed with crumbling ruins, snowy peaks and luscious greenery – alongside those sentiments had my heart racing. Besides 2003's Uru: Ages Beyond Myst – the fourth game in the Myst canon, and a spin-off of the esteemed main series timeline – I can't think of many (any?) notable multiplayer puzzle games of this stature that have graced the genre since; where other players can dip in and out of your game in supporting roles. As a longtime Myst enthusiast myself, and as a fan of everything from The Talos Principle to The Witness, the Portal series and The Room, to name just some of the best puzzle games that have grabbed my attention over the years, Islands of Insight shows bags of potential at this early stage. 

Said to house "mysterious puzzles in every corner of the landscape" as per a press release, the puzzles I was shown in Islands of Insight during a hands-off demonstration at SGF 2023 included: perspective conundrums that involved lining up structures in specific ways to unlock new areas; tile-sliding quandaries of varying degrees of difficulty; locating magical archways that were otherwise invisible until approached; and environmental set-pieces whereby the player had to match glowing totems within their line-of-sight. With no fall damage, I got the impression exploration of the game's vertical maps will require as much trial and error as its puzzles – but with the ability to literally spread your wings and fly, I suspect getting lost is designed to be part of the fun.

Islands of Insight

(Image credit: Behavior Interactive)

"What will clearly determine just how much fun Islands of Insight is, or can eventually become, is variety."

What will clearly determine just how much fun Islands of Insight is, or can eventually become, is variety. What I was shown looked great, but it was nevertheless a snippet of the full game. The puzzles I saw looked fun and challenging, but if the game's world is simply full of the same or similar set pieces with slightly different outcomes, it'll get boring quickly. 

This is of course true of any puzzle game, and while I'm also fully aware this is my own desire talking, I'm quietly confident Islands of Insight is worth keeping a close eye on moving forward. The sense of scale showcased at the beginning of each new island gave me goosebumps, and as the player surveyed the mess of floating islands below, I was reminded of the views from the Throat of the World in Skyrim or Miquela's Haligtree in Elden Ring. There's something empowering about knowing every ledge and platform can be reached and explored, so long as you can work out how. Likewise, the devs on-hand at SGF told me that friends can be invited into other players' games at any stage, meaning that even if you've only just started out on your journey, you can hop into a friend's world to help them overcome some of the game's more sophisticated puzzles down the line.  

In the wake of Summer Game Fest 2023, with so many upcoming games to look forward to, things are about to get hectic. Islands of Insight is sitting on a tentative "coming soon" release date for now, as per its Steam page, but if it can deliver on what it's promising at this juncture, I cannot wait to use it as a break from the chaos in 2024 and beyond. 

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Joe Donnelly
Features Editor, GamesRadar+

Joe is a Features Editor at GamesRadar+. With over seven years of experience working in specialist print and online journalism, Joe has written for a number of gaming, sport and entertainment publications including PC Gamer, Edge, Play and FourFourTwo. He is well-versed in all things Grand Theft Auto and spends much of his spare time swapping real-world Glasgow for GTA Online’s Los Santos. Joe is also a mental health advocate and has written a book about video games, mental health and their complex intersections. He is a regular expert contributor on both subjects for BBC radio. Many moons ago, he was a fully-qualified plumber which basically makes him Super Mario.