Food Chain Island review – eat your way to the top

Button Shy Games is releasing Food Chain Island on May 26 on Kickstarter, a 17-card solo puzzle game! In this Food Chain Island review, we’ll go through a brief summary of the game mechanics, components, and our separate points of view on the game.

Disclaimer: We offer Button Shy Games’ games for local purchase in our online shop. While we promise to be honest in our assessment of the games we review, do take this into consideration as you go through our review.

We own a couple of Button Shy Games ourselves. The games they’ve published have always been fun, relaxing puzzles in a fantastically small package. They called for Print & Play reviewers, and we answered as fast as we could!

In Food Chain Island, you control the local wildlife in a small island in an unnamed ocean. You tell the animals what to eat, with the goal of having only one animal left at the end of the game. (That’s proooobably not very good for the island environment, but it’s a very small island, see? Only one recliner and margarita available.)

Food Chain Island play through summary

There are 17 cards in total in this solo game. There are 15 land animals, ranging from a Plant that Eats Nothing, to a Polar Bear that Eats the Lion, the Gator, and the Tiger. There’s also a Shark and a Whale to help nudge the land animals’ eating habits along.

In the basic game, you set out the land animal cards on a 4×4 grid in random sequence, face up. The two water animals are set aside where you can see and reach them easily.

On each of your turns, you move one of the land animals to “eat” another land animal. You do this by placing their card over the eaten animal’s card (therefore forming a stack under the eating animal).

In most cases, animals can only move one space orthogonally, so they can only eat those next to them.

The bat goes in for the kill…

Each card is also numbered according to their level in the food chain. They can eat animals up to three below them in the food chain.

Who can eat who?

In the image above, you can have the Gator (13) eat either the Lynx (10) or the Tiger (12). They can’t eat the Lion (14) because it’s higher in the food chain; the Rat (6) is also too far below the food chain. It’s not going to be enough to feed this hungry Gator!

In addition, when you move an animal to eat another animal, you also activate their ability listed in the bottom of their card. These special effects start out quite helpful in the early game. You’re still generally working through the lower end of the food chain, after all. But as you go up the food chain, it gets progressively more difficult.

Once you can no longer eat another animal based on your current grid, the game ends. If you’re left with just one animal, you’ve won the game! In most cases, this would be the Polar Bear; but there are card abilities that allow you to remove any card from the play area, so YMMV.

What do I do now? :(

Food Chain Island components

As we tested a Print & Play version of the game that was sent to us, we can’t really comment on the final game quality once it’s released after the Kickstarter. But we do have personal history with Button Shy Games’ Wallet line; and we can see the art on the P&P files we were sent. Because of this, we do have some assumptions of how the game will turn out.

The card art is beautiful. It’s whimsical and colorful, but also relaxing and charming. Each card is numbered to help with the eating rules, which is also reiterated helpfully on each card. (Shown here is a screenshot from the P&P file; we only had ivory cardstock on hand when we made our P&P, so the color is slightly tinted!)

The Wallet line which this game will be part of contains similar card games; all of them are housed in a beautiful plastic “wallet” that allows you to bring them around everywhere you go. Each card is also linen finished, beautiful and durable. I’m showing the Tussie Mussie and Sprawlopolis games below–the Food Chain Island game should be packaged similarly!

Her POV

I quite enjoyed this engrossing puzzle game! It was easy to grasp, and I slid into the game pretty effortlessly. I hardly had to read the rules, and it was pretty easy to teach it to someone else as well.

I settled in for a straightforward, cutesy game…and I couldn’t have been more surprised. During my first game, I was pleasantly surprised at how long it took me to go through the game. Maybe it says more about how I get bogged down by analysis paralysis; but there was just so many possibilities about which way to go in a game. I did not expect it from such a simple package.

I did find myself wanting a version of this game with square cards, though. There are definitely no issues with the standard poker size cards, but since we’re talking about grids, y’know…

I can also see this as a game that can be easily shared with the younger members of anyone’s family. The kid-friendly art is sure to be interesting to children; and you can definitely turn it into a short nature lesson ;)

Still, this is definitely a solo game worth your time!

His POV

This seemed like a very simplistic game–considering the easy set-up, cutesy animals, and its super easy rules. After all you’re only required to be the last animal standing by making your way down the food chain.

But after playing the game several times, I can definitely say that there is an interesting complexity with the game when combining the abilities of the animals and the caveat that the animals only have a particular diet that they prefer (specifically only a number of those below them).

Additionally, the mechanics of the game works well with its intended theme–I definitely enjoyed being a lazy polar bear who needs to rest after every meal.

Noms!

All in all, the game is like a fun puzzle with enough complexity to it that it makes you want to keep replaying the game over and over until you are able to successfully complete it. I will definitely recommend these to people who enjoy playing puzzles.

Food Chain Island review verdict

Disclaimer: We offer Button Shy Games’ games for local purchase in our online shop. While we promise to be honest in our assessment of the games we review, do take this into consideration as you go through our review.

Food Chain Island is one surprising package. An outwardly simple, straightforward game, it packs a complexity punch that is perfect for solo puzzle lovers. This turned out to be a strategically crafty game; animal actions that scale as you go up the food chain and eating limitations definitely upped the ante.

The simple mechanics, coupled with its cute, friendly art style make this even accessible for children. Parents who would want to turn this game into a teaching moment, rejoice! For younger kids, possibly some minor gameplay changes might be in order.

The small game footprint is a lovely plus. It’s easy to bring everywhere and get folks and kids to puzzle through the grid with you!

Button Shy Games’ Food Chain Island wallet game is definitely a worthy addition to anyone’s wallet! They’re launching this game on Kickstarter on May 26, and we’ll update this post as soon as they do. :)

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