Halcyon strings together a fun, unique, and delightfully musical challenge
The best puzzle games are the ones that take a simple concept and are able to craft an entire experience out of them. The sublime ones (Tetris, Bejeweled, Lumines, Peggle) stand the test of time. While Halcyon for the iPad may not go toe-to-toe with the greats, it does take a fun, simple concept and creates a fun, challenging game out of it.
The idea behind Halcyon is to match colored arrows moving from one side of the screen to another along straight lines. Matching two of the same arrows traveling in opposite directions removes them from the board. To move an arrow from one line to another, you draw a line from one to another with your finger. If two arrows of different color meet, the game ends.
As you progress through Halcyon‘s four main environments (wind, sea, land and stars), the game gets harder and harder. More lines appear, and more arrows appear in more colors. The challenge is deceptively simple. It seems so easy to progress, but it ends up being a tougher task than you think.
Halcyon lets you know that two different arrows will meet by making the line they are on a bold red and quivering. You’ll have nobody to blame but yourself for these meetings. The trick with Halcyon seems to be keeping on top of arrows immediately as they appear, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Fortunately, the game has that “gotta try once more” feeling, which makes every defeat feel more like a chance to do better rather than deflating.
The experience of Halcyon is completed through its user-generated soundtrack; the music is made through your actions. Each move, match and removal adds an instrumental flourish that makes each playthrough of Halcyon unique. The soundscape during the higher levels is very beautiful.
Each environment has a set number of waves to complete, but if you want to achieve higher scores Halcyon features a couple of endless modes. On top of being longer challenges, these endless modes offer a bit of a zen experience, since the soundscape continues to flow unabated. It’s here that Halcyon has its true longevity; long, uninterrupted playthroughs that allow the rhythm of Halcyon‘s gameplay to truly shine.
There will certainly be some players who will decry Halcyon‘s simple appearance. The graphics are exceptionally plain, particularly given the beautiful graphics that are possible on the iPad. But the strength of using the iPad is in the screen size. Halcyon needs the screen space to breathe, to allow the simple but effective gameplay to have the precision it needs. Others may also criticize the lack of variety. Here there definitely is reason for grumbling, in that while Halcyon‘s gameplay does work well, the question of its long-term viability – will you return here after putting it down in a few weeks or months? – is harder to answer.
It lacks the immediate pull of a great puzzle game, but if you enjoy them, Halcyon is not to be missed. It’s nice to see a simple, clean title appear as a good palette cleanser to some of the more complex games out these days.