by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
AMNESIA ALL OVER AGAIN
Cyto is a simple, colourful puzzle game from Ukrainian developers Room 8. It enjoyed considerable success as a mobile game, and is now available for PC and Mac – but did it survive the transition to the big(ger) screen?
Being, at its heart, a mobile puzzler, there really isn't much of a plot to worry about. You play as the titular main character, a single-celled life form with a big, blue grin and a bad case of amnesia. As you progress through the game, you gather memory orbs which gradually unlock Cyto's past. Each memory fragment unlocked consists of a picture and a sentence or two of text, and it's a real shame that none of this was voiced or animated. It works well enough and could've given an incentive to collect as many orbs as possible in each level, but the story you reveal really isn't anything to get excited about and doesn't feel like it is an integral part of the game. It can easily be ignored in favour of the gameplay.
HAVEN'T I PLAYED THIS BEFORE?
Following the trend of the past several years, Cyto focuses on simplistic, physics-based puzzling. Using an Angry Birds-style drag-and-release mechanic, you fling Cyto around the screen, bouncing the little guy off larger cells and sticking him to filaments. If you've played any recent puzzle games, you'll likely feel right at home here, and even complete newbies will be able to pick it up near-instantaneously.
Additional mechanics are introduced in each game world, including portals, extra-bouncy pads, and energy flows that sweep poor Cyto helplessly along in their wake. There are four worlds, and a grand total of nearly 150 levels, so you do get plenty of gameplay for your money. In terms of actual value, though, your mileage may vary – I found the difficulty across the game to be erratic at best.
A number of levels force you into trial-and-error gameplay rather than taking time to work out the best approach, and there are countless instances where you are required to make pixel-perfect ricochet shots. That the game offers you unlimited and fast retries, and even a 'skip level' button, does alleviate much of the problem, but it is nonetheless frustrating. Equally, sometimes the game felt far too easy, allowing you a Perfect ranking on stages without so much as a second thought. That these easier levels are often sandwiched between ones that invite you to put your fist through the screen only makes the inconsistent difficulty more obvious.
Taking the game as a more casual experience, though - abandoning the idea of getting Perfect on every level - I did have a lot of fun with Cyto. Despite the gameplay not really bringing anything that felt particularly original, it's all executed well enough to be an enjoyable diversion.
STYLE OVER SUBSTANCE
What really makes the game stand out is its sense of personality. Cyto as a character, despite being monocellular, is given charm in spades through subtle touches like idle animations and audio. The rest of the visuals are all just as beautifully designed and fit the game excellently, with nothing feeling out of place. If you're of soft heart, you'll no doubt spend your first few minutes with the game as I did: with a firmly affixed grin.
The audio has also been produced with flair, and David Ari Leon's soundtrack is a wonderful accompaniment. The tracks are quite short, which I thought would grate on my nerves quickly, but within a few minutes I caught myself humming along.
It should be noted, though, that the version of the game I played seemed to have some serious problems with stability, often crashing twice or more per play session. I never lost any progress as a result, but it's not a positive experience and I hope Room 8 will look into it now that the game is available on Steam.
Overall, Cyto is an entertaining experience, and it's been put together very competently, but there's little here that hasn't been seen before. Thankfully, the game's somewhat formulaic approach to physics puzzling is rescued from the jaws of mediocrity by the well-executed personality exuded by the environments, audio, and Cyto himself.
Great personality. Attractive visuals. Entertaining gameplay.
CONS: Just another physics puzzle game. Capricious difficulty level. Stability issues.