If there’s any game that proves visual simplicity can happily coexist alongside strategic complexity, it’s Incidence. Developed by indie games studio ScrollView Games, who previously brought us the decidedly non-minimalist Toxic Hunters, Incidence is a beautiful and challenging minimalist action-puzzle game.
The goal is simple: move the ball through the maze from the start point to the end point (a hole) in four moves or less. With each move the ball will bounce six times, so the challenge lies in working out the perfect angle at which the ball should be released so as to make it through the wormholes, around the spikes, and past the enemies that you’ll encounter along the way. Although it describes itself as ‘billiardsvania’, if this sounds an awful lot like mini-golf for those who are terrified of anything resembling a sport, it’s because that’s essentially what Incidence is – intellectual mini-golf.
Incidence can be an incredibly challenging game, even if the degree of difficulty doesn’t increase incrementally as much as it does in fits and spurts – you’ll face a seemingly impossible puzzle followed by three or four easier puzzles. However, the jury’s out on whether Incidence strikes enough of the right balance between good and bad frustration to keep any given player’s attention through all of its 100 levels.
Incidence doesn’t offer out-of-this-world graphics. The lack of visual clutter is clearly a deliberate choice rather than one borne out of laziness. In keeping with the minimalist aesthetic, there’s no in-game music either. No clutter, no music, no distractions. It’s just the maze, the ball and simple sound effects that inform you of bounces and puzzle completion. Rather than feeling like you’re missing out on something, this all allows you to maintain the high level of concentration needed to plan your attack on the game’s more challenging puzzles.
Like the music and the graphics, the controls in Incidence are simple. Although it’s tempting to aim and release by dragging and tapping where you want the ball to go, it works more like billiards.
Drag your finger behind the ball to determine the angle of your shot and its power. The further back you pull, the greater the force applied to the shot upon release. Pay close attention to the guide at the end of the sightline. It’ll show the specific angle of the first bounce and from there it’s usually possible to determine where the ball will go next (even if it’s really more of an educated guess). Both the minimalist aesthetic and solid gameplay work together to provide what can be a wholly engrossing experience, one that will leave you temporarily oblivious to your surroundings.
At the same time, for all that is great about Incidence, it is not a perfect game. For a minimalist game, it runs extremely heavy. There is no logical reason for it to run as heavy as it does. Although it will install on older devices, gameplay here can be incredibly slow and glitchy. Compatible with devices running iOS 7.0 or later, it ran particularly sluggishly on the iPad 4 running iOS 10.0, so much so that it had to be abandoned. While it ran smoothly on the iPhone 7, the device itself ran much hotter than usual, indicating they were working on overdrive. The other issue, which is a rather strange bug indeed, is the way the size of the X in the top-right corner of the screen increases mysteriously the more you use it. The X is important, it allows you to restart the level before you’re forced to, but it’s not so important it needs to take up a twelfth of the screen.
Incidence will not enrapture everyone who gives it a try – it’s probably more of a love it or hate it kind of game. Additionally, the premium price point might prove a barrier to entry for some, as it’s the sort of game you’re more likely to devote a few hours to completing rather than making it a permanent fixture on the precious home screen. But, with the prospect of additional levels and new challenges with future updates, it’s best to consider Incidence a low-maintenance long-term investment.