June 17th, 2011
Eliss is an iOS game which involves using the touch screen to break apart, arrange and connect different coloured circles so that they can fit into portals and be removed from play. The goal is to clear a set number of circles from play to advance to the next level. When two different coloured circles touch, a health bar drains. As circles of different size and colours continually spawn, separating the different colours while breaking and connecting other circles becomes more difficult.
Here are some of my play notes:
The more time that has passed in play, the faster the circles spawn. The spawn rate therefore acts as an organic timer as the player can only deal with a certain number of circles before they’re overwhelmed.
Each level has it’s own game idea. For example, breaking circles apart into a multitude of smaller circles and then having to managing the crowd of small circles, working within the tight space limitations of the presence of 2-3 larger circles or acting on your feet to perform quick, simple actions under the pressure of a fast spawn rate. Even though the mechanics only involved joining, breaking and moving the circles, the game design space is very well fleshed out.
Eliss is a very difficulty game. From my own experience—I’m up to level 14 of 25—each level requires a good number of play throughs just to get a general feel for the game idea and develop rough strategies. The demanding difficulty forces players to have a comprehensive understanding of the game idea of each level in order to progress. So, although there are only 25 levels, each level fills an area of the design and for the player to completely finish the game they need to grok that entire design space thoroughly.
This difficulty demands a great deal of concentration and the design of Eliss‘ interface provides no distraction for the player. Here are some neat details in the interface:
- Health bar changes colour depending on the amount of health.
- Portals (circles with nippers), circles (solid fill), spawning circles (outlines), stardust (triangles) are all visually distinct from one another.
- Small squiggly lines in the centre of the circles inform the player that they can be touched and should be touched from the centre point.
- When you touch a circle it buzzes with lines pointed around it to indicate that it’s in play.
- Very little text is used. Pause, continue and exit are represented as icons. The instruction screen uses minimal wording, even numbers are used with level names, eg. “Sector 4teen”
The music and animation work together to provide great feedback to your actions.
The star dust is a great way for players to earn back some health, but at the same time it’s a recipe for risk/reward. Trying not to lose health and keeping the circles from touching and becoming any larger than they need to be creates an impetus for management. Dealing with what can often be a multitude of circles calls for cool-headedness. The random swirl of star dust (which can be touched to redeem health) only last temporarily creates and moves around chaotically throws a spanner into any coolheadedness.