The iOS and Android as gaming platforms have over the years built up an impressive lineup of games. This has led to an increasingly competitive market in which new titles must either provide a fun and challenging experience while allowing players to be able to play in small installments. For this reason, puzzle games have thrived. Sifting through all the puzzlers available can be like walking into a library and seeing all the books just piled up on the floor — it’s a mess. But hey, that’s why you’re here; to find out which games are worth your time and which ones are best avoided. Cyklus, the latest game by EastAsiaSoftware, is a free sci-fi themed puzzler in which you play as rotating ships that must navigate a series of mazes to make it home. Hit the jump to find out whether this title warrants space on your device or whether you should let it keep drifting through space.
The basic mechanic of Cyklus is to maneuver your ever-rotating ship through a maze to get to a wormhole. Getting to a wormhole is what dictates your progress, but you can pick up items along the way. There are crystals which are your primary point-getting devices, health pickups, and status pickups which can temporarily make it easier for your ship to get through the maze. While the only action the player does is move the ship, in some ways Cyklus feels like an old shmup like R-Type; specifically the aspect of how at times it is less about defeating enemies and more about precision timing and steady movement through a tight space.
The mazes themselves are fun and creative. The difficulty curve is pretty gradual, but you will definitely be challenged by the last couple of worlds. Early on in the game, all you need to worry about is not hitting a wall. Later, your attention focuses more on lasers, bullets, and gates which need to be activated/deactivated. Pinpoint accuracy is essential at this point in the game, so beware if you are on a bumpy bus or train ride. The good news is that each level is relatively short, so the need to restart costs no more than a few seconds. The game also auto-saves all progress, and even keeps track of your exact position if you need to shut down quickly.
Controls are incredibly simple. You simply touch where the ship is and slide where you want to go. It doesn’t take long before you get the feel of how to move the ship at different speeds. Generally, the controls are very smooth and responsive to the touch. The only part of the controls that were troublesome has to do with the screen itself. I played Cyklus on my iPhone, and while it was perfectly functional, the lack of maneuverable finger space was at times awkward and detrimental to my success. Because of the precision required in this game (particularly in later levels), a tablet such as the iPad would be a much more suitable device to run it.
[+Simple, responsive controls] [+Varied level design] [+Gradual difficulty curve] [-Limited control space on iPhone] [-Precision requirement not suited to 'on the road']
Cyklus consists of five worlds with 20 levels within. Each world has its own unique visual and musical theme. This game is visually very striking and crisp, and runs smoothly with no hiccups in frame rate. One tiny issue I had with the visual design is that at times there can be a bit of a trial-and-error aspect to figuring out which items are power-ups and which are barriers, enemies, or bombs (Oh, did I forget to mention that there are bombs in some of the levels too?). Some of that is attributable to the small screen (again, the iPhone). Then again, games like this are all about trial and error and incremental progress and the is certainly not pervasive throughout the game.
The game uses mellow ambient music for its soundtrack. It’s very fitting, considering how stressful some of the maneuvers can be. In some ways, it is reminiscent of the ‘space probing’ music in Mass Effect 2 and 3, which I consider high praise as that series has one of the better soundtracks in modern gaming.
[+Visually distinct worlds] [+Colorful, striking design] [+Evocative music] [*Items and hazards can look similar at first glance]
Well, determining value isn’t much more of a slam dunk than this. Cyklus is free, and EastAsiaSoft would be more than justified in charging a few bucks for it. There is an in-game store where you can purchase power-ups or new ships using currency based on how many crystals you have acquired. For the ‘pay to win’ crowd, there’s also the option of purchasing 100, 250, or 500 crystals with real money. The microtransactions associated with buying crystals is a little ridiculous because acquiring, say, 250 of them is really not that hard. Then again, players are free to make that choice and that’s a reality of games like this nowadays. To the developer’s credit, it doesn’t use microtransactions to lock out content. EastAsiaSoft also mentions on its website that future content is a possibility, so there may well be even more levels to try out. Even if that doesn’t end up happening, it’s still a free game consisting of 100 levels, so it’s win-win really.
Beyond the game itself, completionists can go back and try to beat their high scores or finish levels in record time. There is also the option of posting your results on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
[+Free] [+100 levels] [+Crystals can buy power-ups] [+Links to social media] [*Microtransactions]
Cyklus strikes a nice balance between being a lengthy and challenging gameplay experience while being very easy to pick up and play in short increments. The controls can be a little too fine on a small surface such as an iPhone, but would thrive on a tablet. In spite of that, it’s still very much worth playing. If you use public transit, spend a lot of time waiting around in places, or spend a lot of time in the bathroom, Cyklus will make that time absolutely fly by.
[+Simple, responsive controls] [+Varied level design] [+Gradual difficulty curve] [+Visually distinct worlds] [+Colorful, striking design] [+Evocative music] [+Free] [+100 levels] [+Crystals can buy power-ups] [+Links to social media] [*Items and hazards can look similar at first glance] [*Microtransactions] [-Limited control space on iPhone] [-Precision requirement not suited to 'on the road']