We live in a time of more. More stuff, more connections, more pressures piling on top of one another, weighing us down. If only there were some magical way to reduce these burdens as we added more to them. voi from Gamebrain Studios offers a thoughtful remedy to the weight of more by counterintuitively creating a void as things pile up. Similar to hocus, Gamebrain’s previous minimalist puzzle game, voi plays with our perception of form, of what we see and cannot see, and what we think we know about positive and negative space. Just like its predecessor, voi offers a compelling alternative to our assumptions about how two objects can and should interact in a shared space.
The goal of this black and white puzzler is to overlay black shards in different configurations to reproduce a provided shape shown in silhouette. At first, the puzzles are reminiscent of tangrams, a children’s toy made up of wooden squares and triangles that are used to recreate a silhouetted guide shape. However, unlike tangrams which cannot be overlapped, the purpose of voi is precisely to overlay the pieces in increasingly more complicated ways and it is through the overlapping that the unique game mechanic reveals itself. As each shard is placed on top of another, the overlapping area turns white, thereby disappearing into the background. Adding another layer will turn that section black again. To match the complicated guide shapes, the shards must be moved and overlapped to create positive and negative space through a complicated mix of original and inversely effected shards. In many cases – though it’s not the goal- it is possible to entirely overlap the shards, reducing them down to nothing.
voi is stark, still, and modern and remains that way throughout the levels, so people who generally reach for colorful and dynamic games might be put off. But I’d ask those same people to consider voi as a series of unique brain exercises that truly challenge perceptions of space. It’s a peaceful, mellow experience that requires attentiveness and patience which also pays off with gratifying surprises. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel smarter for having advanced through its unique lessons. At the end of each level, the pieces splinter off and flutter away like abstract butterflies.
The game is commuter-friendly, with short levels, one-handed gameplay, and portrait orientation. There are no timers or energy systems to add pressure beyond each level’s own difficulty. I found the puzzles that provided asymmetrical pieces to make up a symmetrical silhouette were the most difficult; these puzzles required an additional level of abstraction to create complementary angles and mirrored shapes out of pieces that were all different. I was also challenged by the thoughtful detail of staying within the round workspace while manipulating square pieces. Limiting the space as pieces increase in size or number means they are overlapping, and thereby disappearing, while you’re trying to figure out how and where to position them. For the more complicated puzzles, the shape and size of the space added even more difficulty.
As with other Gamebrain offerings, voi is a reprieve from the bloated, garish, aggressive mobile games with which we are constantly bombarded. voi reveals a mastery of restraint and simplicity while also showing how complex the relationship between something and nothing can actually be.