Islands, as its titular addendum 'Non-Places' insinuates, is a game about those non-descript patches of no-man's land through which we all pass en route to where we're going. It's the baggage carousel in the airport, with its melancholy conga of luggage. It's the bus shelter, with its plastic seats, bathed in the white light of an advertising screen. It's the hotel lobby, with its deep chairs and bowed pot-plants. This is a surrealist study of architecture's supporting cast in which you're forced to consider and prod, at length, at the places that nobody ever cares about, or thinks about, or notices.
The presentation is as utilitarian as the subjects. There are ten scenes, visited in sequence. Each one is a dusky, tonal diorama, around which the camera can be rotated on a fixed circular path. As you wheel around the scene, you gain new perspectives on the objects, which, like a surrealist study, can allow you to reflect on the familiar in an unfamiliar context. In tactile terms, the extent of your interaction, beyond rotating the camera, is the option to click on light sources (lamps, laptops, televisions and so on) in order to produce interesting effects, unexpected animations, or pleasing snippets of audio. When you've clicked enough lights to finish the scene, it's on to the next one. So it ever was, when you get down to it, in video games.
Despite the mundane façade, Islands is in fact playful, humorous tour. Its most interesting and curious effects come from its juxtapositions, between the bizarre and the ordinary, between the fabricated and the natural, the city and the forest. In once scene, a bus pulls into a stop and deposits a line of bouncing eggs. As the vehicle descends, on a previously hidden elevator, into the ground, the eggs congregate in the shelter, whose sides rise to form an incubator. Another reveals a gaggle of palm trees riding an escalator, reaching the summit then cluttering up the exit point. Some scenes infuse everyday objects with fantastical behaviours: the carry cases that rise and fall through the air, like horses on a carousel; the detonation of bank notes, freeze-framed alongside the ATM, like butterflies frozen in flight.