The antithesis of ‘chill pill’

What do you get when you cross Dr. Mario with Ikaruga? Finger-tapping bullet hell with a dose of wubwubwub, that’s what. Or at least that’s what you get from Intake – a blisteringly fast puzzle game from Cipher Prime, the makers of fantastic little gems like Pulse, Fractal and Splice: Tree of Life.

The gameplay here is easy enough to grasp. Pills of different colors descend down the screen in varying directions and you’ll need to tap to eliminate them – but only if they match the color that you’re meant to be hunting for. You’ll only deal with two different colors at any given time, and switching your target color is as easy as tapping the bottom of the screen. If any of the wrong colored pills reach the bottom of the screen, it’s game over.

Intake: Be Aggressive

It’s simple on paper, but devilishly difficult in practice.

Normally this is something I’d say as a compliment. The best games out there are usually easy to understand but impossible to master. Intake, on the other hand, just feels impossible. Sure the first minute or two of play goes by without a hitch, but once you’ve cleared five waves and the game switches modes on you, it becomes a frantic, demanding cluster@#$%.

There are different modes that it could switch to, from speeding up the fall of the pills to simply filling the screen with more of them. Regardless of which curveball it threw at me, it was just too much to handle.

Mayhaps I’m a wuss.

If there’s anything exciting that happens after this first mode switch in the game, I couldn’t tell you. I’m simply not good enough at Intake to find out. And unless I’m a blip in the radar, there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way.

It’s a shame too, because the basics that you’re introduced to in the first few minutes of play are genuinely a pleasure. If the game had a more gentle ramping up of difficulty, or introduced new elements a little more gently, Intake would be an easy recommendation to make.

Intake: Be Aggressive

Intake is also a game that’s easy on the senses. The visuals are a glowy, trippy good time, and the one song that loops will get stuck in your head for weeks. It feels like The Go! Team went dubstep.

I expect nothing less than musical mastery from a Cipher Prime game, and Intake delivers.

There are also plenty of unlockables powerups to purchase by grinding for currency (or *cough cough* spending real money), and while their effects are fairly shortlived, they definitely help to let you catch your breath as you struggle for survival. Word of advice: spending your currency on extra lives is going to make the biggest difference early on.

It’s probably not fair of me to review Intake. There’s a chance that I’m not the audience it was intended for. There’s also the chance that I’m just really bad at it. But since I do like the basic idea, the former argument doesn’t really water. The latter might, though if that’s the case, then Intake is probably a fantastic choice for gamers who like spirit-crushing difficulty – and yes, there are plenty of folks who fall into that category.

If you don’t though, you’ll probably want to give Intake a pass.