LIKE A MARBLE.
Smart puzzlers have been all the rage in the last few years and are starting to become a tricky genre in which to innovate. Some puzzlers rely on strict difficulty levels, intriguing visuals and/ or blending puzzling with progressive storylines. Developer Gamious’ ingenious new physics-based title scrapped any sort of storytelling and complex visuals, instead providing a relaxing, engaging and, above all, fun experience – whether to enjoy at home or on the go.
A world of pure physics-based fun
While iO’s art style isn’t cluttered or overly complex, the game does feature a simple and very pleasant aesthetic. Set in a space-themed background, stages are laid out across blue, red and yellow platforms, the yellow ones indicating possible physics-based interactions and the red to be avoided at all costs.
The sphere you play as seems to blend perfectly with the environment and creates a cool-looking warm core as you make it smaller, thus spinning it more rapidly – more on that in a bit.
Menus are also very compact, efficient and minimalistic in their design, presenting no unnecessary navigation before getting into the stages themselves.
The game looks very clean in a minimalistic way
The real joy in the game is its gameplay, mostly thanks to the great size-altering mechanic which sees you transforming the rotating object in real time. You’ll need to manage size differences and the rate at which you increase or decrease the sphere’s diameter, helping you to gain momentum in climbs, jumps, clearing gaps, slowing down and everything in between.
Once you get a grip on the main gameplay mechanic, iO is a lot of fun
Playing iO reminded me of simpler times spending hours playing with marbles, enjoying the satisfying animations that physics-based games can provide.
What’s more, while I didn’t find the regular stages that challenging (aside from attempting to clear the best stage times), iO has something in store for those seeking a more difficult time. In fact, the last couple of level packs present some positively devilish level designs which can usually only be cleared with perfect timing and management of the sphere’s dimensions. Adding to that the increased challenge of trying to get a Gold rating in every single stage, there’s quite a bit of content to such a compact game.
The final stage packs are downright devilish in design
To put it simply, iO’s sound design is as relaxing as its pace and aesthetic and equally minimalistic. There are a few floaty environmental sound effects as you come into and out of stages and the understated ambient music ensures that playing iO with headphones on is a soothing time indeed.
iO oozes calm and quiet from every pixel
I’m happy to report that I had a very good time playing iO. The engaging real-time physics system provides puzzles with lots of smooth and flowy gameplay in a calm and quiet space aesthetic, while the equally minimalistic sound design adds to a pleasantly calm playthrough with its dreamy sound effects and ambient music.
To put it briefly, if you’re into physics-based puzzlers, iO is an easy recommendation on both PS4 and PS Vita.