Isles of Sea and Sky review

by on May 22, 2024
Reviewed On
Release Date

May 22, 2024


More than any other genre, puzzle games often stand the test of time the best. Regardless of whether a puzzle game has shiny new visuals or retro pixel art, that glorious feeling of solving a puzzle with nothing but your logic skills is always going to send all those happy chemicals flooding to your brain. Isles of Sea and Sky certainly looks like a game that could’ve been released twenty-five years ago, but its take on puzzle design and fully explorable open world feel anything but dated.

In Isles of Sea and Sky, you play as a little castaway, who has washed up on an island with no idea how they got there. After a few moments of wandering around it’s clear that this place is hiding some secrets, and a few puzzles later you’ll meet a mysterious girl who seems to have a connection with the place. Without any text, you’re slowly told the story of the creation of this oceanic location, as long as you can solve the puzzles between each encounter with the girl.

Isles of Sea and Sky features one type of puzzle exclusively, the humble box puzzle. It’s incredibly likely that you’re familiar with pushing boxes onto switches if you’ve been playing video games for more than five minutes, but that’s not to say it isn’t satisfying when you manage to correctly push a box into a hole to be able to progress further on your quest.

A screenshot of Isles of Sea and Sky

It doesn’t take long for Isles of Sea and Sky to shake things up and add a whole host of new elements to the box pushing, ramping up the difficulty significantly. Things like icy surfaces which boxes slide across or spikes that kill you aren’t anything new, but there are also plenty of creative box types and environments to navigate too. The most interesting of these are elementals that behave differently as boxes, like earth elementals that roll in the direction pushed or fire elementals that can destroy boxes by blasting fireballs at them. Mastering all of these won’t come easily, but when you get stuck you can always just head off in another direction for a while.

The open-world nature of Isles of Sea and Sky means you can always go and solve another puzzle when something stumps you, with a variety of rewards awaiting you for doing so. Gathering keys to unlock blockades is essential, but because keys aren’t tied to specific locks you can gather a whole heap of them to use whenever you need. There are also stars that are required to open certain barriers, coloured shards that awaken gods which you’ll need to do to open the end-game area, and a whole load of optional bits and bobs that completionists will want to hoard.

While all of the actual box pushing takes place on dry land, you’ll be navigating the titular sea to get to the puzzles. You do this by riding a massive sea turtle and bobbing around the ocean to find new main islands or smaller islands that are entirely optional. Traveling across the water adds a lovely sense of scale to the game, and with plenty to explore on the waves it’s worth looking in every nook and cranny possible.

A screenshot of Isles of Sea and Sky

There’s very little more frustrating than trying to solve a complex multistage puzzle in a video game only to make one wrong move and have to start again, and Isles of Sea and Sky knows that. With the handy rewind function mapped to a shoulder button, you can instantly undo any mistakes you make, which is an absolutely fantastic feature. Whether it was due to a lapse of judgment or just because I needed to use a bit of trial and error to solve a tricky puzzle, I used the rewind button constantly and would’ve had a much worse time without it.

Isles of Sea and Sky is a wonderful puzzle game, but it has one issue that some will struggle with – the difficulty. It doesn’t take long for the box-pushing puzzles to get pretty fiendish, and with no hint system to use when you’re struggling that means a whole lot of aimless pushing and frustration. You can of course wander off somewhere else and solve a different puzzle when you’re stuck, but some puzzles will need solving eventually and if you can’t manage that then you might as well put the game down.

Isles of Sea and Sky takes good old-fashioned box-pushing puzzles and adds a whole lot of variety that’ll challenge even the most skilled of puzzle solvers. The open-world elements and handy rewind function make the experience so much more enjoyable too, and as long as you don’t get stuck on a tricky puzzle Isles of Sea and Sky is a tough game to put down.


A delightfully old school puzzle game
The rewind function is fantastic
Open world elements make exploring a blast
Loads of variety in the puzzles


You will get stuck a lot
When you do get stuck there are no hints to help

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Isles of Sea and Sky is a box pushing game brought kicking and screaming into the modern era, and it's so damn compelling.