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Review: Ellipsis

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Ellipsis is simple enough in concept. Touch the screen, drag to capture the little stars, avoid the bad stuff, make it to the exit. It's the kind of thing seasoned players might not look twice at, since it's so clear what it is from the get-go. Heck, I would have never played it were it not an entrant in MomoCon's indie game showcase.

But I did play it and it had me hooked early on. I played and replayed levels in order to get five stars. It was great. When I got home, I downloaded it on my phone so I could see it through to the end.

That's where things went wrong.

Ellipsis (Android [reviewed], iPad, iPhone)
Developer: Salmi Games
Publisher: Salmi Games
Released: February 11, 2016 (iOS), June 15, 2016 (Android)
MSRP: $3.99

See, my first impressions of the game were on a tablet. In that format, it works wonderfully. Speed and precision are necessary to perform well, and the combination is possible with a large touch screen.

But the nature of the gameplay is fundamentally flawed when it shrinks down to a phone-sized display. By virtue of the fact that hands are not invisible, a non-negligible portion of the screen is obscured at all times. It can be frustrating when an attempt is cut short because a new obstacle showed up out of sight. Even stationary objects can be difficult to avoid when they're blocked by finger, hand, or stylus.

The worst aspect is in the specific way points are obtained. Not only is it necessary to bring the player's circle to various bubble checkpoints before the goal opens, but it has to be positioned precisely and remain long enough to collect little dots from within the checkpoints. Where is all this action happening? Directly under a finger. Sometimes it feels like a good run, but it turns out an errant dot shoots off to the other side of the screen and it isn't apparent until the end when everything is tallied up and scored.

The level design somewhat counteracts the problem, with each stage lasting only a few seconds (when played well) and having little randomness so patterns can be learned and muscle memory can kick in. Restarting a level is quick enough that a single error isn't terribly punishing.

The specifics of completing a level is also forgiving. After hitting four bubbles, the fifth appears at the same time as the goal. This usually presents a risk/reward scenario that separates high score-chasers from more casual players: it's possible to go straight to the goal and move on or to risk starting over by hanging around long enough to collect all the dots. Then there's the added challenge of doing it in under a certain amount of time. Players can pick and choose what they want to consider success.

The variety in the different levels is one of the highlights. Each stage brings a new challenge to the simple gameplay. In the beginning, there are stationary walls that must be navigated around. Then there are spikes that cause a restart when touched. Then the walls move. Then the spikes move. Then there are exploding suns. Then there's something that could almost be classified as a boss fight, while still working within the confines of the gameplay. Then there's a level that just has to be a shoutout to Geometry Wars 2's Waves mode.

The entire aesthetic is reminiscent to that of Geometry Wars. Ellipsis has the flat black background, the neon components, the particle explosions, and the electronic soundtrack. These are all good things.

For all these reasons, it's easy to recommend Ellipsis on a tablet. It's simple, it's fun, and it's nice to look at. But when the action is squeezed down to a tiny phone screen, it becomes too frustrating to enjoy, and doubly so for those who won't move onto the next level until the current one shows five gold stars.

It's a shame, because conceptually the gameplay fits in the phone gaming space so well. It would be so easy to pull out a phone and spend a few seconds playing a level while standing in a line or sitting on a toilet, but it just doesn't work well enough on phones. And I'm not likely to have my tablet on me in those situations, either.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Ellipsis reviewed by Darren Nakamura

5

MEDIOCRE

An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
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Darren Nakamura
Darren NakamuraAssociate Editor   gamer profile

Darren is a scientist during the day. He has been a Destructoid community member since 2006, joining the front page as a contributor in 2011. While he enjoys shooters, RPGs, platformers, strateg... more + disclosures


 



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