There are indie developers that like talking about themselves more than the games they make, and then there are indie developers like Lucid Labs. A start-up comprised of a group of freshly-graduated college friends, Lucid has just released its first game, ROTO, and it takes about five minutes to figure out why the studio has let its game do all the talking.
ROTO is a minimalist puzzle-platformer for mobile, and the fun and ingenuity of it lies in its deceptive simplicity. You control a small ball as it moves from the start of the level to the end by jumping on and off other larger rotating balls. The one-touch gameplay only lets you jump, so getting around is all about timing, and to add a bit of challenge, there are hazards in the form of saw blades that you must avoid.
Each level has three stars, and they’re positioned along the most challenging route through a level.
Later levels also introduce two new types of balls, one of which you will bounce off rather than latching onto it. This new bouncy ball also adds the only dash of colour to a game whose colour palette otherwise only includes white, black and grey. The other ball type begins to disappear the moment you jump onto it, bringing in a sense of urgency by forcing you to move quickly.
These two ball types, along with the saw blades and some rather clever level design, make just getting from start to end an eventful process, but there are also stars to collect in each level. Each level has three stars, and they’re positioned along the most challenging route through a level. So while you could finish some levels without collecting any stars with just one move, collecting all stars could require ten.
Only when you go after every star in every level will you realise how good a puzzle game ROTO really is.
The game is broken into three sections of 15 levels each, and you’ll have to collect all the stars in each section to unlock the next, and only when you go after every star in every level will you realise how good a puzzle game ROTO really is. Having to collect all stars introduces several new challenges, and makes you approach a level differently than you otherwise would, like looking for alternate ways to get around. This often requires a lot of trial and error, but thanks to the game’s simple and snappy UI, multiple failures and retries don’t get frustrating.
That said, chasing all the stars is the only way to make ROTO’s puzzles challenging. Without it, you’ll breeze through it. I would have liked at least the later levels to be a little more difficult, and maybe even a bit longer. Also, the 45 levels that come with the free download won’t take you more than a couple of hours to go through, and once you do, there’s little reason to fire it up ever again. If you do find yourself jonesing for more levels though, 100 more are on the way via a future update, and they’ll all be free.
At the end of the day, this is a free game, so I can’t really complain too much about its length. If anything, this is a great game to go to when you have a few minutes to kill, and despite it being a challenging puzzle game, its clean, minimalist art style does a great job of not making it seem too daunting.
ROTO will win you over with its simplicity and the level of polish in its execution. Like most good puzzle-platformers, it’s controls are as uncomplicated as they could be, and all the fun and the challenge comes from the levels themselves, which range from easy to challenging, but are never frustrating. There’s really no reason for you to not download it right away.