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Tired of voxel-style crypto games? Want a sandbox game that pays homage to your favorite NFTs—and lets you build your own custom island for free?

Enter Nifty Island.

Nifty Island has already made a splash among crypto gaming fans, many of whom are incentivized to check out the game because of its promised future airdrop where gamers could, basically, get free money in the form of tokens.

But airdrops aside, Nifty Island is actually a good game given its current beta state, living up to my expectations and exceeding them in some ways. For one, the build mode is one where many players will spend most of their time. The team has done a nice job of fine-tuning a wide range of tools and offering a decent amount of free objects, foliage, and terrain tools to allow players to create some pretty cool stuff and customize their islands quite a bit. 

Despite only launching this week, some impressive maps have already been built with base-level materials, from shipping container yards to elaborate rockscapes that look like colossal, ancient shipwrecks.

Nifty Island is a builder’s paradise. For beginners, it’s a little challenging to figure out how to move the camera around while building, so I often thought I was placing objects on the ground only to find out later that they were, in fact, in mid-air. Oops! 

Fans of games like Animal Crossing, Roblox, The Sims, Minecraft, and Fortnite’s Creative mode—who also happen to be OK with crypto and NFTs—are going to love this game. For these folks, it’ll fill a niche gaming fix that they can’t satisfy elsewhere, including being able to play as their own NFT avatar.

Given the ongoing NFT backlash from many gamers, however, Nifty Island’s NFT-forward approach won’t appeal to everyone. You do have to login with some kind of crypto wallet or Sequence email-based proxy wallet. I found Sequence’s integration the easiest, as connecting to the game with my Coinbase Wallet required a mobile app signature, facial recognition, and so many extra steps that I’d probably only complete if I was going to play the game on an ongoing basis.

Sure, maybe Nifty Island is trading on the user-generated content (UGC) surge that’s been soaring in recent years—but then again, gamers have always wanted to customize a game world to their liking and feel like their involvement can make a big impact. 

Nifty Island screenshot showing 3D-rendered island with arch rock formations and rock stepping stones in the water. A little character in a hat with a floating robot stands on one of the rocks.
Added some rock formations and a beach house to our starter island. Image: Decrypt

Hot take: Many of the most well-known NFT-powered builder games already on the market are prohibitively expensive, boring, and straight-up devoid of other players.

Despite the endless stream of brand collaborations and short-lived hype from the heyday of the “metaverse” boom, gamers haven’t been flocking to crypto-powered worlds in droves. Let’s face it: Not everyone has endless amounts of money and time to spend their days furnishing a land plot that cost them $450,000, just so they could “live” next to Snoop Dogg.

Nifty Island’s appeal is in its flexibility, simplicity, and affordability. You can be a creative designer, a competitive gamer, or a curious explorer without really feeling like you’re missing out on anyone else’s fun. It generally feels low-stakes and casual, like a chill place to blow off steam while listening to the game’s epic-yet-relaxing synthwave soundtrack. 

Game screenshot showing a map with popular islands, "featured" island, and islands geared toward new players.
The Nifty Island explore menu already has a lot of options for a game in beta (there’s a search feature that reveals countless locales). Image: Decrypt

And when it comes to NFTs, Nifty Island makes it relatively easy to earn “blooms,” which, once collected en masse, can be redeemed for new playable avatars, buildings for your island, and other perks. Oh, and there are plenty of ways to show off your affiliations with various NFT collections, too, if that’s your thing.

But yeah, you’re going to need a lot of blooms.

Even in beta, Nifty Island has quickly earned a spot among the best social NFT games out there. It’s visually appealing with fun movement mechanics, crisp audio, and tons of epic worlds made by other players. Nifty Island feels like it’ll appeal more to gamers under 25, but some older millennials might find the game’s wealth of building tools appealing enough to bring back the vibes from your RollerCoaster Tycoon and SimCity days.

And the best part? You don’t have to spend a cent to build an island that’s all your own.

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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