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Like A Record: Rotion Alpha Impressions

I’ve been playing the alpha version of a new shape-popping game called Rotion. When I read that it was a shape-popping game I expected it to be like Pang or Bubble Bobble. It’s actually more like flOw crossed with one of those buzz wire games that used to scare me as a child because I thought I was under threat of severe electrocution. Rotion doesn’t scare me but it does frustrate me a bit, though not always in a bad way. It’s up on Desura, with a demo, and a £3.49 preorder gives access to every build right up until release. There’s a trailer after the jump along with some thoughts.

As it stands, the game has a short campaign, free play and survival. I went straight for the campaign and was a little confused. The basic goal remains the same throughout: you control a tiny craft (or perhaps creature? It’s all very abstract) with the mouse and have to move to the centre of shapes to pop them. They have an opening to sneak through but they move around and rotate so some delicate piloting (swimming?) is required. There are sometimes loads of shapes on screen, as well as moving barriers, and they can pass through each other, meaning they create complicated multi-layered pathways. Touch anything and you lose a life, of which you have six for each level.

So you’ll need a steady hand and a fair bit of patience. There is an auto aim option, which helps to guide you into the apertures, but I’d switch it off. It’s more fun and later on it, when things get crowded, it can actually make things more difficult by dragging you into an intersecting object while trying to position you.

The problem I had was that the campaign introduced new concepts every now and then. First of all its shapes within shapes, then its companions, then its shapes that attract and repel, stuff like that. But they tend to make an appearance and then are never seen again. Until, that is, you realise the campaign is introducing them in a tutorial style. It does get complicated later on and has what I’d describe as set pieces, but the meat of the game is in the other modes.

this wasn't easier than it looks

Free play makes the most of the soothing visuals and music, allowing you to pop away to your heart’s content, with no time or life limits. Survival lets you rack up massive scores and has bonuses locked within some shapes that change the speed, or activate one-off powers. Free play and survival are both included in the demo.

There is a split screen mode included as well, which is always a pleasant surprise whatever the game. I had to play against the computer because there are no keyboard controls. That’s fair enough because the precision of control is very much suited to the mouse. Or a gamepad, which is the other option. I’ve not got another human being handy right now, but I can tell you that it’s a competitive, score-based mode and I imagine it’d be fun in short bursts.

At the moment, I find myself wishing there was more to it. Perhaps extra powerups or shapes with more characteristics. By that I don’t mean more sides - I mean shapes that bump into each other and glue together, or shapes that have different styles of movement, rather than just bouncing around sedately. That said, it is fun and the simplicity might be the charm for some people. And I have to give special mention to the music which, in its soothing electronic style, pulled me back into a happy place whenever I was dying repeatedly.

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