A Leaf on the Wind

HIGH The ‘airship’ level.

LOW Spike tunnels that require impossibly steady hands.

WTF Wait, I’ve got a sprint button?


 

‘Serene’ isn’t an adjective one would immediately associate with a game primarily about navigating a space bubble through a world of obstacles determined to burst it, but that’s the key impression Ellipsis left on me — it’s a calming neon experience designed to meld a player with their mouse, transforming both into into a seamless entity skirting through dangers.

With its bright wireframe graphics recalling a zen version of Geometry Wars, Ellispsis is made up of over a hundred puzzle screens in which the player always has the same goal: sweep a bubble around the screen to pop other bubbles in numerical order and collect the pellets contained within them. Pop four bubbles, and both an exit and a final ‘challenge’ bubble appear. At this point, players must decide between a safe exit and a perfect score.

Ellipsis wouldn’t work if the mouse controls weren’t incredibly responsive, so the developers did a fantastic job making sure that they are. Controlling the bubble is as easy and natural as sweeping a pointer around a desktop, and it can move as fast as the player moves their hand. Don’t assume it’s a simple experience, though — this is where the developer’s ingenious use of physics comes into play.

To collect a level’s pips, the player has to both pop the bubble they’re in, then actually make contact with the pips themselves. However, if bubbles are popped at high speed, the pips inside go caroming across the screen like billiard balls, forcing the player to waste time chasing them while throwing themselves back into danger. The Ellipsis challenges players to both zoom across the screen at high speed to blast past threats while also slowing to a near-stop and using the gentlest possible touch when collecting pips. It’s as complicated and engrossing a mouse-based maze experience as I’ve come across.

Ellipsis‘ level design is top-notch, and the devs have come up with a huge number of variations to bedevil players with.

The game is broken up into different zones, each one with a dozen or so areas. One might feature swarms of ships, another a dense nebula that keeps the player from seeing any threat that isn’t just about to strike their bubble. Most impressive were the hunter ships that only activate when the player moves past them above a certain speed —  each of these encounters was a white-knuckle experience in creeping past an army of sleeping threats.

In a nice touch, many of the levels are optional. The game’s level-select screen is a large map laying out all of the threats that populate each area, and most of the zones offer branching paths through them, giving players three different ways to make it to the next zone. No good at low-friction levels? Ellipsis will let players dodge their way through a minefield instead.

With the soft glow of its graphics and a hypnotizing beat that plays under each level, I found Ellipsis an oddly chill experience for a game where I died over five hundred times before I’d reached the end. Despite the number of attempts needed for me to reach the end, I found it challenging but never daunting, offering diverse and complex experiences within its structure. Ellipsis is an immensely high-quality puzzler that’s recommended to absolutely anyone… so long as they have a steady hand. Rating: 8.5 out of 10


Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Salmi Games. It is currently available on Smartphones and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game was not reviewed by the ESRB, but would likely be rated E, as it contains only Fantasy Violence. It’s a game about a bubble avoiding spikes and cannons out in space. It’s completely fine to play.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played an hour of the game without sound, and noticed no problems.

Remappable Controls: There are no remap options — the game is played with a mouse or controller, and it uses just a single button.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options. This may prove problematic, as certain levels use red and green as visual cues for dangerous and safe walls, respectively.

Daniel Weissenberger
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