On the iPhone’s debut, doubters sniped, “But there’s no keyboard!”, and gamers were thrown by the lack of a D-pad and buttons.
Even though Nintendo had tinkered with a touchscreen on the DS, at least it had ‘proper’ controls to fall back on. In gaming (as with everything else, at seemingly any moment in history), Apple was clearly doomed.
What no-one had considered was enterprising developers desperately keen to do something new, and that the best games for any system are usually those that fully utilise the host hardware. In the case of the iPhone, you got a responsive and gorgeous multitouch display. It therefore stands to reason that multitouch arcade title Eliss was the game that truly blew the minds of those fortunate enough to experience it in 2009.
Now, it’s been reimagined for Android and iOS as Eliss Infinity, and it’s better than ever.
Eliss Infinity takes place in an abstract universe where you’re tasked with keeping everything clean (as in, very, very empty). Planets of varying colours peskily materialise after briefly signposting their arrival, and it’s your job to dump them in portals of the same colour that occasionally show up, wobble a bit, and then implode if not quickly fed.
Planets can be dragged, merged and torn apart, to make them the requisite size to fit a portal, but when planets of different colours collide, your limited energy reserves are depleted. These can be replenished by mopping up space dust that appears when a portal winks a planet out of existence. Initially, as you work through the tutorial, everything seems simple and sedate — almost polite. But Eliss soon bares its teeth.
Your first challenge in Eliss Infinity is an endless survival mode that keeps lobbing planets at you until you inevitably (and, in your first few goes, rapidly) cave under the deluge. To deal with the many planets that soon litter the screen, you need a propensity for multitasking and a reasonable level of dexterity as you perform a kind of finger gymnastics — Twister for your digits.
Infinity within a minute becomes a frantic, demented test, not least when vortexes and space storms are hurled into the mix, your only brief respite coming in the form of sporadic ‘slow down’ and energy power-ups. And as with the best arcade games, Eliss Infinity is a title that gives you a pasting and only makes you all the more determined to beat it.
For the most part, it’s the still-unique nature of the gameplay that captivates. Even five years after its debut, the Eliss concept feels fresh and ideally suited to multitouch devices. When you’ve three fingers holding down planets being sucked towards a vortex, two fingers tearing apart a planet elsewhere to make it fit a disintegrating portal, and other ‘spare’ fingers desperately trying to mop up space dust, the idea of limiting multitouch games to virtual D-pads and buttons seems reductive and primitive.
This Eliss semi-sequel also provides the original title’s more progressive journey, in the shape of a 25-level Odyssey mode; it’s challenging and cleverly affords each level its own personality that you must understand to conquer. There’s a noodly ‘sandbox’ mode, too, accessible after beating three Odyssey sectors; this might seem throwaway, but it’s useful for refining your understanding of the game’s physics. The Android release additionally benefits from a new achievement system and enhanced visual/audio feedback that’s made its way back to iOS in the Eliss Infinity 1.1 update.
Bold, brilliant and somehow still as fresh as the pre-Infinity Eliss was on the iPhone way back in 2009, Eliss Infinity is just about as essential a purchase as you can get for your touchscreen device. You should buy it immediately.
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