Satellina by Peter Smith is a game of twirling and whirling colors. Sure, that sounds friendly enough, but as most, er, “experienced” adults can tell you, wildly-careening colors aren’t always benign.
Of course, Satellina means no harm, nor does it come coupled with hallucinations of the Joker riding on a pink elephant while throwing confetti. Rather, it’s a simple-to-learn motion-puzzle game meant to appeal to speed-runners and other players that love to blast through games as quickly as humanly possible.
As for those of us that don’t feel the need for speed, Satellina is still a good way to knock off a few hours. Levels progress according to the pace you take them at, so it’s perfectly acceptable to take thing slowly at first, then resolve to speed up. Life is so much nicer when we’re allowed to move at our own pace, isn’t it?
Satellina describes itself as a “puzzle in motion,” which is accurate. Each level features colored dots that swirl and churn at different paces, as well as an on-screen cursor. The colored dots are green, yellow, and red (though color-blind individuals can alter these shades, which is thoughtful). Your job is to place the cursor so that it “eats up” the green dots without touching the yellow or red ones.
When all the green dots are erased, yellow dots become safe for consumption. Then the red dots turn green. And so on and so on until the level is done. If you run into a yellow or red dot before it turns green, the level resets – but the timer in the corner of the screen does not. Take heed, speed runners.
There’s two things immediately noticeable about Satellina. First, watching those spinning colors is pleasant and hypnotic. This is an easy game to space out with. Second, even though you can chase after green dots with your marker (which moves at a 1:1 ratio, by the way, so those of us with big fat fingers don’t have to worry about covering up the cursor), it’s not always an effective way of doing things.
This is where the game’s “puzzle in motion” descriptor comes into play. Chasing after dots is admittedly fun, but often the more sensible solution is to discern a level’s pattern, then wait motionlessly for the green dots to feed themselves to you. It’s a bit like practicing how to be a good predator.
Every level still requires some degree of movement, however. Sometimes you need to squeeze between bouncing patterns to access all the dots that are consumable at that moment. More importantly, simply standing still isn’t the quickest way to get things done. If you’re speed-running the game, you’re going to have to be as proactive as possible.
You unlock alternate level routes by finishing levels within a certain time frame, but other levels can be opened up by taking things at a more leisurely pace. Once you’ve memorized each level’s pattern, it shouldn’t take you long to mop up everything Satellina has to offer.
However you choose to play Satellina, it’s a bare-bones but unique puzzle experience that simultaneously calms you down while causing your heart to pitter-patter during its more intense moments. It’s a neat contrast.