iO? More like I OWE a huge thank you to Gamious for creating a rather lovely game! Haha, iO is but a humble indie game with a simple concept. You are a tire-like object that must roll its way to the end of each level, with the primary gimmick being the ability to change size at will. In every level, many obstacles litter the way to your goal. So you must find a way to adjust the size of your tire as you roll along to compensate for these obstacles.
The premise is quite simple, no? So why do I praise it above other games in its genre? What makes the game so special? Anyone with eyes can see the visuals are minimal, and that the gameplay is simplistic. Many other Indie games do wondrous things that deserve recognition. At first glance, the only thing that seemingly stands out is the gimmick. But to those skeptics, I say look further, and you’ll find a pure example of excellent design philosophy.
No game has to be grandiose to be amazing. Sometimes simplicity is all one needs. To pull off simplicity and stand up against the intricate, proper execution is required. So let’s break the game down to what it presents the player visually, before what it presents mentally.
From the title screen itself, the interface is quaint, and already easy on the eyes. Within seconds, you can jump right into the first level. At this time, one may realize that there is no story to be found. A game like this doesn’t need a story. One might also realize the background is just black. The platforms have a single blue gradient, and the player is arguably the most detailed element. That is if you call a few circles inside one another detailed.
This really is all you need. As the developers put it, you are presented “Pure Gameplay”. There are no distractions. You are given all you need to solve the situation. It is just you and the levels, of which there are well over two hundred. And if at any point you become stuck on a level, worry not, you do not have to play them in order. Every single level is given to you to choose right from the get go, leaving you to skip and replay at your leisure. Nothing is required of you and nothing is forced upon you. In the end, humble would be putting it lightly.
Now, many would not consider all of that to be special. Free flash games and mobile games do similar things all the time. Anyone can find a minimalist game with “Pure Gameplay” just about anywhere. Now, this may be true, but either way, it is all still worth mentioning. What it lacks in visual innovation, it makes up for in gameplay creativity.
iO impresses me in simple ways. Of course, the main gimmick is charming and fluid. The concept of changing size to fit the situation while accounting for weight and speed values is quite unique. However, as a puzzle game, it must find a way to teach the player its challenges organically. And the main reason I deliver so much praise is simply that; the way the game teaches you.
A gimmick in a video game gets old when nothing new is being done with it. So puzzle games with gimmicks have to keep spicing things up as you progress. iO understands this well, so new ideas are always being added as you progress. Now, of course, these elements are introduced gradually. Giving the player too much to learn too quickly is a mistake, and often leads to puzzles becoming overwhelming.
iO teaches you naturally. This is what makes an indie puzzle game excellent. In the beginning levels, text will provide hints on what to do. But when the basics are said and done, no more help will be written out for you. Instead, when a new idea is presented before you, it follows a subliminal process that is simple yet genius.
Due to the game’s kind and minimal visuals, few colors are ever on screen. So when a new element is introduced, its appearance is presented in an eye-grabbing new color. It is impossible to miss, and clearly distinguishable from previous obstacles. And to make absolute certainty that you don’t miss it, the first time a new obstacle concept is presented, it is put easily and quickly into your primary and obvious path, which guarantees that you become acquainted with it immediately.
When first encountering the gameplay element, not only is it placed conveniently in your path, but the solution is as basic as that element will become. The solution is obvious the first time you interact with the obstacle, which teaches you quite effectively how the gist of it works. Therefore, in the next few levels, things become more complex.
Then, suddenly, the obstacle will become noticeably absent for a few levels, leaving you again with the basics. And then after a few more levels, a brand new concept is introduced in the same manner as the one before it. So now you are given time to adjust to this new gameplay element.
And then, ever so cleverly, while you are learning the new concept, the previous obstacle that has been absent for a few levels now returns alongside the element you are currently learning. This, in turn, teaches you even more about both things at the same time, as well as how those elements will react to each other.
And for those looking for a challenge, you might, of course, ask if this puzzle game puzzles the brain. That is the purpose of a puzzle game after all! And I say yes my friends! You got quite the bang for your buck here in that regard. With well over 200 levels categorized into different difficulties, you’ll have plenty of length to your play sessions. And to top that off, you’ll be tested to the bone with the ranking system. You want a challenge? Try and go for gold rank timing on every level. I’m sure that a challenge certainly awaits you.