Something that strikes me about a lot of modern gaming is how little of it is about play. That line of thinking appears anathema to FROST, an immersive and tactile touchscreen experience that gradually has you come to understand, coax and guide countless swarming critters.
The game’s creators offer some mildly mawkish guff about helping flocking spirits return to their home planets, but the game more resembles a Petri dish reimagined by Mondrian, and rendered in neon.
As you progress through the game, you’ll see little dots cartwheeling in patterns, like tiny fish floating in space; elsewhere, sparks wheel and are hurled into oblivion, like the dying embers from a firework. Occasionally, geometric patterns slash their way across the screen, intense in colour and crackling like electricity.
You think: I’d quite like that as a screensaver. But then you interact with the light show, and the magic begins.
Whatever tranquility and equilibrium is presented in each initial scene is quickly obliterated by the sausage fingers of the player. In early levels, you carve tunnels through space, guiding flitting pinpricks of light to their destination – an orb that gradually fills. Job done.
But then it gets tougher. Two planets. Bits of light that, for some reason, won’t quite play ball. Creatures that must be merged, or that block the way for other elements. Shards of light that when you slice through them explode across the screen like electrified silly string.
Half the time, it’s all you can do to stop gawping at the mesmerising visuals. Before long, though, you’ll realise those orbs that fill up also diminish quite quickly when not being constantly replenished. When you’ve several to fill, you must think logically and act with precision. More complex set-ups become like abstract machines; you build a solution, and then sit back and wait as your orbs slowly fill.
Given the manner in which you’re drawing with light, there’s a hint of ‘art game’ about FROST, but this isn’t a bad thing. It is, after all, a heavily visual experience, to the point while reviewing it I wanted to snap and share almost every moment. Moreover, this kind of description hints at the tactility at the game’s core, and its aforementioned tendency towards play.
It’s the videogame equivalent of several dozen interactive light shows – albeit where each has a distinct, specific aim beyond ‘looking pretty’ and ‘not electrocuting the audience’. And although it’s great to increasingly see top-notch PC ports – The Talos Principle; The Witness – hit iOS, FROST feels like a game made for the platform.
Doubtless, some joyless gamers will nonetheless gripe that FROST isn’t a ‘proper’ game, despite all evidence to the contrary. Let them. Instead, revel in its beauty yourself, and savour every one of its wonderful moments.
FROST is available for iOS.