Cyklus is an awful game. A fairly standard 2-D game with puzzle and platforming elements becomes an exercise in frustration and pain as a result of a terribly conceived control mechanism and some shockingly poor development choices.
In Cyklus, the player touches an elongated rotating ship, and drags it around a maze. The farther away from the ship the player drags, the faster the ship moves; it’s extremely intuitive but somewhat mushy. Contact with the walls or any of several dangerous mechanisms (including laser-eyed bunnies) will cause the ship to recoil and lose health. The design of the levels encourages patience, as the orientation and rotation of one’s ship are often important, but one has no direct control over them. The spinning mechanic is kind of a neat addition to the genre.
Sound is monotonous and uninspiring, but adequate. I imagine the visuals seemed bland at some point in development and they chose to add seemingly arbitrary, often slightly creepy art to liven things up. Instead, the game ends up looking mostly still bland, but slightly off-putting. The exception is the ship, which is surprisingly pleasant across several models.
A thoughtful reader may already have deduced some of the problems with the game. If one’s finger is always near the ship, some of the most relevant information is always obscured. Worse, at least in my particular case, the imperfect responsiveness of the controls makes pressing hard while dragging a natural reaction, rather like discovering that the ship isn’t doing quite what it ought to and insisting. This very rapidly starts to hurt as the pad of one’s finger is pulled in various directions. The use of a stylus was helpful in ameliorating both problems.
Recoiling when damaged is also handled badly. The ship is most likely to be damaged when in a narrow passage or there are lots of sources of damage about. However, the slight recoil frequently breaks the player’s control, requiring lifting and repositioning the controlling finger. The recoil may directly push the ship into another hazard, or put it so close that the natural rotation of the ship brings it into contact with such a hazard before the repositioning finishes. None of this would be an issue if the game gave the player a brief grace period after damage during which the ship was invulnerable, as is usually the case in similar games for just these reasons. Instead, Cyklus does allow the ship to avoid damage from whatever has damaged it most recently while still in contact with that hazard, but for everything else the ship is still fair game. The end result is that a single mistake very frequently results in multiple hits, but the actual amount of health lost seems largely independent of the magnitude of the error. Thus, damage inserts a degree of randomness for no apparent benefit.
Level design is largely uninspiring, with occasional difficulty spikes which seem tailored to monetize the player base for a game which, being free, has to make money somehow. In this case, it’s possible to buy the same power-ups which are usually distributed throughout the maze at will, right from the pause menu. It’s not especially subtle, but neither is it any more objectionable than we’ve come to expect from games which describe themselves as “free.” The very idea of competing on leaderboards for high scores in a game which allows players to purchase in-game benefits seems ill-founded, but it obviously works for some people.
Don’t get Cyklus. With a stylus and a great deal of patience, there’s something slightly interesting in it, but it’s so flawed that there are many better games to choose from.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.