With its Tron esque visuals and colours, iO uses some interesting physics and game mechanics which with some tweaks could have been a much more enjoyable game. At its core, iO is a time trial side scroller physics based game. The aim of the game is to get your ball which you move with the left analogue stick into a green finish point on the map. Now this may sound and is simple enough, but when you add growing mechanics and physics based obstacles into the mix you get a varied difficulty and experience of tasks.
The start of this game greets you with a very clean graphic UI. A UI which contains much hope for things to come later. Unfortunately the level design of this game is interesting, but are not ones I shall easily remember. The Tron like colour scheme seems to bare no correlation to the game mechanics and level design itself. Sure these levels are colourful, playful and reminiscent of those colours used in 80’s future technology, but it would have been nice for this design to play a part in the level design, rather than being just a colour pallet they had to stick to.
As you could imagine with a game like this, there is somewhat of a tutorial which teaches you for the most part how to roll and grow. This tutorial section of the game however, although containing timed pieces which can earn you bronze, silver or gold medals, don’t contribute towards any achievement progress which are largely about these medals. Maybe this is just the achievement hunter in me, but I felt rather ripped off after spending time to try and complete faster runs on these. Annoyingly the tutorial plays almost twice, with the first set of ‘normal’ levels being very similar and explaining very similar things.
Excluding the tutorial, iO contains hundreds of levels. Firstly 6 main sections to complete which would be considered ‘normal’ difficulty. Then there are ‘hard’, ‘harder’ and ‘extreme’ sections too. The most difficult labelled ‘impossiball’. Inside the normal difficulty levels there are definitely different difficulty variants too. Some levels (in their supposed difficulty order) are surprisingly easier than others. So its worth skipping a level if the physics are not playing ball with you.
Where iO falls short the most for me is when you know how to do something, but the physics of the ball or environment or the controls of the game limit you to do so. Which eventually gets very irritating. Knowing how isn’t as puzzling as being able to do so. Think of it as Trials Fusion, with less variants of plausible variants of failure, yet many times doing the same movements will result in different effects. Again, very frustrating when you are trying to complete a timed run of a level.
Something this game could take from Trials and Super Meat Boy is the ability to see your time while playing the level so you are able to see if its worth restarting the level and trying again to beat your current time. A ghost of yourself could also be an option, but in a confined space may be visually confusing to see. As a speed run enthusiast, being able to see your time and then also compare it to others with replay options would be great.
Growing the ball in size is controlled with your right analogue stick. This is a controller mechanic which feels like it may have been better suited to other buttons, rather than those of the up and down of the stick which at many frustrating points in the game feel rather lack lustre in its effect. Tilt the right stick slightly to the left or right and this growing function fails to work. Something which can be very frustrating if you are in the middle of a momentum based puzzle. An option to switch these controls over to the right and left triggers would have been a welcomed addition to this game mechanic.
iO uses a very simplistic graphic layout in its level, character and object design, clearly inspired by Tron racing. Level design could be compared to other side scroll games such as Thomas was Alone, where by text is used to help you partake in tasks, but unfortunately to no where as great effect. This game could take a lot of advise from Thomas was alone.
iO has no spoken voice parts. It could benefit from this as the text tutorials can sometimes be scrolled out of view and disappear before you can go back to read them.
Character audio has no real meaning and growing and shrinking sounds do not correlate with the size of the ball. This would be useful as there were lots of times when I found myself not knowing how large I was, or if I had even stopped growing yet. An audio tone for the size of the ball would be a welcomed addition.
Music in the game is constant and does not change level to level. This game has a very calm sound track which at times feels odd and disjointed to the complicated levels. Individual level tracks feel seem like an addition that is necessary as the constant audio track feels like an after thought.
Load times are almost nonexistent, something which you would expect from a game that is under 1GB in download size.
As explained previously, tutorials do not go towards achievements although medals can be earned for your own satisfaction. Completing every level in the game with a Gold medal will get you the majority of achievements in this game. Strangely there are others that are tied to growing and shrinking an amount of times. Something which can be accumulated in any level.
iO has made a good start here for a future game. The controls could be easier. The left and right triggers could be a better default larger and smaller ball changer, and more intermediate tutorial levels would be a much appreciated addition. Levels get harder quickly and although you can skip to any level, these can be not very forgiving. Sometimes levels you complete feel more like luck than they do skill or technique. With tighter controls, an additional clock and online scores or replay function and a tweak to the physics engine this could be a great game. But until then, the replay factor for me is lacking. Mainly because the reason to play again is only to beat myself.
REVIEW CODE: A FREE Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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