"Twizzle"—a rather prosaic title for a work with such philosophical ambitions. This is the newest action puzzle game from Philipp Seifried and Markus Mundjar, the authors of A Good Hunch and Drifts. It is available to play at their just-launched new site BobbleBrook, a showcase for their particular brand of sophisticated game design and stunning artwork.
Each level in Twizzle is a circle, made up of a series of rotating concentric rings. Your aim is to transport a small orb from the innermost ring to the outermost, but you only have limited control over the orb's movement. Press [up] to shift it one ring outward, and press [down] to shift it inward. Whenever you occupy a warm (orange or yellow) orbit, you may switch freely from path to path; but as soon as you enter a cool (gray or blue) orbit, your sphere will be at the whims of fate until an arrow icon bounces it back into your zone of control.
Over the course of the game's 17 levels, you will encounter a number of new icons that complicate matters. Much of the fun of Twizzle is in exploring the effects and ramifications of each new element, but suffice to say that the later levels offer some very twisty and intricate maze-works indeed.
Solving Twizzle involves a subtle mixture of observation and experimentation. It often pays to just throw your orb at the puzzle from every which way and see what happens, but eventually you'll need to develop a specific escape plan. None of the levels take too long to solve once you've figured them out, but you will occasionally need some patience, since your movement speed is limited by the rotation of the rings.
Analysis: Seifried and Mundjar's skills seem to have improved. With Twizzle, instead of simply putting a twist on a common genre and then slathering it with pastels, they have created a unique game with an introspective soul of its own. The goal of the game—to occupy the most expanded ring—mirrors the gentle mind-expanding nature of the puzzles. Underscoring the seriousness of Bobblebrook's intentions, each level comes with a quotation from some luminary, usually concerning geometry. Perhaps we are meant to ponder the essence of a circle and all the philosophical implications of nature's purest two-dimensional form. Or at least let our subconscious tangle with the issue while we get on with enjoying the game.
The presentation is simply gorgeous. Between levels, the player gets to go on a little ride through a handsome world of calligraphy and watercolors before arriving at the next circle. The backgrounds almost overwhelm the actual gameplay in fact, but when the levels get more difficult, the transitions serve as a rewarding breather between bouts of concentration. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention how well the pastoral music sets the mood; although you are free to turn it off if you'd prefer to throw on some Kruder and Dorfmeister, which would also be appropriate.
I won't say that this is a masterpiece. It's a little bit too short, there's something haphazard about the design of the puzzles, and some of the aesthetic elements may be superfluous (the quotations didn't really do anything for me.) However, there is so much talent here, and such a strong sense of mood and direction, that I'm eager to see what Bobblebrook comes up with next. The world can always use another mature, expressive video game.