By – Jarrett Riddle
Gamious, a promising up-and-coming Amsterdam-based developer brings something fresh to the puzzle genre with iO: A game about navigating a size shifting ball around perilous obstacle courses. The catch? Players can only move side to side and make themselves smaller and larger. One must depend on friction to swirl around loops, ride gears, and launch themselves high into the air to reach the goal. While the whole concept sounds simple, over 150 puzzles will keep you occupied and entertained for many hours.
It’s obvious the designers were going for a minimalist look from the moment the main menu appears. Clean, neon colors jump out at the player from a black background, giving the entire experience a sort of futuristic ambiance. There are no video options apparent, but even with my monitor running at 1920×1080, the graphics are clear and easy on the eyes.
Controls are simple. The arrow, enter, and R keys are all you need for navigation both inside and outside levels. The mouse can also be used to sort through menus and make selections. Actual gameplay is quick and easy to pick up, but difficult to master. As you advance through progressively difficult stages, the controls and mechanics will become increasingly familiar, allowing you to go back and dominate previous levels that seemed impossible at the time. To me, this dynamic learning process adds to fun and replay value.
The courses are divided up into sections, starting with a trial set. These demo levels do a terrific job of teaching the player by displaying tips on how to progress. Be prepared, though, as after this group is over, you’ll be all alone in solving the devious layouts.
Stage designs range from the simple Roll, which has your ball growing to increase downhill momentum and shrinking to accelerate the ascension of a circle, to Unicycle, where the player must traverse a lava pit by logrolling on a cog. New elements are added to the mix every so often as you progress, though more variety would have been appreciated. For every well thought-out puzzle, there are four or five climbing stages between. Wall scaling can be achieved by ramming a vertical section and making yourself bigger in mid-air to prevent fallback. This is often used in a clever way, but its implementation occurs too frequently.
Medals are earned from completing levels within a given amount of time. There is definitely a certain amount of trial and error to successfully get through many of the stages, so when you hear that satisfying plink and obtain the gold award after so many tries, a great amount of satisfaction is felt. An exciting self-challenge is to try outdoing your old scores and awards on each set, gaining a better understanding of how to play all the way. Though a level editor or additional modes could easily increase playtime and value, there is still plenty to do. The physics-based backbone of the design adds a personal feeling to each course run; no two playthroughs will be exactly the same. Overall, iO provides an entertaining romp that’s sure to test both your reflexes and brain power.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
For a price equal to or less than a movie ticket, you can experience a creative take on a genre that often seems content to follow the same formula. I would pay the $9.99 for this game, if only to grab all the golds and brag about my supreme mastery.
iO Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 6 Hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- Windowed Mode – No
- Resolution Played – 1920×1080
- Bugs/Crashes Encountered – None
- DRM – Steamworks
- System Specs – AMD A10-6700 @ 3.7 GHz, 768MB Radeon 8670D, 8GB RAM
- Control Scheme – M/KB
- Saved Game Location – SteamApps\common\iO\iO_PC_Full_Data
- Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Steam
- Demo – Yes