The first great mobile game is even better now
First released back in March 2009, which was literally like the prehistoric ages for the mobile gaming world, Steph Thirion’s Eliss has often been considered by many to be the first truly great mobile game. After one playthrough of the newly refined and expanded rerelease, Eliss Infinity, it’s hard not to see why. But what’s so amazing about the experience is that not only was the original Eliss such an innovative game for 2009, but the challenging mix of arcade and puzzle gameplay has managed to stand the test of time and remain insanely relevant and accessible even today in 2014.
For those new to the world of Eliss, the gameplay is deceptively simple: you’ll be presented with a number of different colored planets that slowly materialize in the vastness of space. You can touch and drag any planet to move it around the screen, and combining any two like-colored planets will create a new larger one. Conversely, stretching two fingers apart on any one planet will split it up into two smaller ones. As time goes on, several color-coded portals will begin popping up around the screen, and it’s your goal to maneuver your different planets in order to fill each one (keeping in mind that the portal and accompanying planet must be the same color and size).
Things start to get tricky early on, as you realize that different colored planets are not allowed to touch. If they do, a green health bar at the top of the screen will quickly start depleting, and if it empties all the way then you’ll have to start over. It seems easy to keep the colors separate at first, but once new planets start spawning over already-existing ones of a different color, or when some planets get so big that it becomes hard to maneuver them to the portals without banging into the edges of others, you’ll quickly understand the game’s immense and rewarding sense of challenge. And that’s without even mentioning the various hazards like moving red vortexes which only complicate things even further.
But if you’ve already played and beaten Eliss all those years ago, there’s still a good reason to make the plunge again. The two main additions to Infinity over the original Eliss come in the form of new unlockable game modes. The first is easily the biggest drawing point to buying the newly remastered game: a score-based endless mode, which takes the core gameplay experience of Eliss and awards points for different kinds of matching over time. It’s a truly wonderful way to keep the game experience alive long after you’ve perfected the 25 or so levels of “Odyssey,” the original campaign from 2009 that’s also been transplanted here.
The second new mode is called “Spacebox,” and it serves as a relaxing sandbox arena where you can create new planets with a single touch, mix or separate them as you normally would, and just experiment with different strategies and hand maneuvers without having to worry about actually losing. Admittedly, while you probably won’t be spending all of your time in Infinity‘s Spacebox mode, it’s still a neat little inclusion, and an especially nice way to introduce younger gamers to the world of Eliss without them getting too frustrated.
The new interface, however, isn’t exactly friendly to newcomers of the game. I actually had a hard time navigating through the different menus upon starting up the app for the first time, as the extreme minimalist approach leaves out helpful things like words to let you know what all of those mysterious looking icons mean. It also would have been nice to see a few more additions to the actual visuals besides the little in-game notifications that pop up on occasion. When comparing gameplay videos, the “upgraded” visuals of Infinity do look remarkably close to the original, and it does feel like a slightly missed opportunity to not have pushed the envelope a little further.
But in the end, what we have here is a refreshing mobile game that was hard to put down back in 2009, and even harder to put down now in 2014 thanks to its addictive new endless mode. I was one of the many gamers who missed out on Eliss the first time around, and so I’m thankful that Thirion has decided to reissue the game for the next generation of mobile players. So now that it’s here, and as its name would imply, here forever and ever, get ready to enjoy some pure mobile bliss with Eliss Infinity.