An Art History Buff’s Paradise
Isoland: The Amusement Park is the latest indie point-and-click puzzle title developed by Cotton Game, a Shanghai-based group of young developers. In this game, you travel back in time to discover the secrets of an abandoned island. With each puzzle solved, you unlock paintings and references to surrealist artists. This makes the game one of the most engaging art history lessons you’ll ever have. You begin by opening a letter, which serves as a portal to the amusement park.
For the level of creativity and poise this game brings to the table, buying it on the Google Play store is a small price to pay. There are no ads or in-app purchases, so you’re left to tango with your new reality in peace. Replete with puzzles and plenty of surrealism, this game depicts art within art. That’s because it’s filled with both iconic surrealist paintings and Isoland: The Amusement Park’s own intriguing game design.
Throughout the game you’ll discover surrealist icons, such as Dali’s melted clock and Piet Mondrian’s painting Composition with Red, Blue, and Yellow. There’s also a diner named after Magritte, painter of the canonical The Son of Man. And in fact, all of the characters are faceless, emulating the people Magritte often depicted in his paintings—people wearing bowler hats, their faces partially or fully hidden by an object or empty space.
As you delve into the game’s bizarre concoction of colors and shapes, nothing is what it seems. Each artistic discovery alters your perspective with layers of illusion. Isoland: The Amusement Park even lets you leave behind hidden drawings on the landscape, which you can erase or elaborate upon further. This is possible because the game lets you draw on a wall near the gallery using one of the game’s special features. Once you stop drawing, the lines disappear, but your masterpiece is still there. All you need to do is approach the wall and activate your paint brush for it to reappear so you can look over your work.
Slow, creeping music adds to the jarring strangeness of the game. Although you can never quite put your finger on it, everything feels out of place. This effect is due to the blending of so much surrealist art, giving the environment an otherworldly feel.
However, the setting of Isoland: The Amusement Park isn’t creepy or scary. It’s as if you’re inside an artist’s den, only this den spans an entire little town. There’s the gallery, the train station, and other public spaces that should be filled with people but are instead desolate. As you try to make sense of this world wiped clean of identity, you’ll find notes throughout the park. These notes are snippets of the letter that drew you into the amusement park. They anchor the game’s story by providing a form of anonymous characterization. Since the tone of the letter writer becomes visible, it gives the story depth and personality. Remember that the amusement park is a physical manifestation of the letter you open at the start of the story.
Without a doubt, Isoland: The Amusement Park plays havoc with your senses and pushes you to defy the norm in order to solve its secrets. The puzzles test your memory and observation skills. You’re also pushed to brush up on your art history, as recognizing and recreating famous surrealist paintings is a big component of this game. This makes Isoland: The Amusement Park a curious mix of logic and absurdity. You’ll oftentimes have to make illogical assumptions (like finding out how to melt a clock) in order to reach checkpoints.
The game is actually quite difficult, much more than its cartoonish design lets on. Although I initially didn’t think much of the game, I became fascinated as I began to take in the somewhat plain surroundings. You’ll find that artistic references and clues litter the park—all hidden in plain sight.
Is it Hardcore?
Isoland: The Amusement Park is equal parts strange and riveting. It’s a quiet, stress-free game that combines art history and logic effortlessly.