What makes a game relaxing? Despite featuring a large quantity of whizzing, brightly-colored particles and a constantly counting down timer, Pulsus somehow manages to be a game I'd like to pick up and play at o'dark hundred while sipping a cup of herbal tea until I get sleepy again.
In this puzzle game, an emitter is releasing particles of different colors. You cannot manipulate the particles directly, but using the mouse, you can place circles called "forces" onto the field to direct particles into the goals. You win the level when all the goals are filled. Some goals are colored, and only fill up when hit by particles of their own color; for these levels, you need to use colored forces which attract particles of one color and repel all other colors.
Analysis: Pulsus will doubtlessly be compared to Auditorium. The superficial resemblance is quite strong: manipulating streams to hit targets, with sleek graphics and sounds and a relaxing mood. After playing both games, however, it's clearly only a skin deep similarity. The strategies for solving the puzzles of one game would be completely useless in the other.
Pulsus' strength, its primary entertainment value, is in the way the visuals, the chimes in the audio, and the trial-and-error, sit-back-and-watch puzzle solving combine for a meditative gaming experience. So, why is there a timer? The big purpose of timers in gaming is to add tension. It's like I was lying on a massage table, smelling incense, listening to water flowing over stones, totally relaxed, and all of a sudden the therapist drips cold massage oil into the small of my back. Mood broken, and it totally could have been avoided!
Although I more-or-less sailed through the levels, I had a rough time with the final one. I couldn't even get any of the left hand goals half-way full. In frustration, I even wrote to the developer to ask what the strategy was for that level. So, I may not be an expert at the game, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.
Despite the timer, Pulsus has still earned a place among the tiny coterie of games I turn to for relaxation. A massage is lovely, even with a little cold shock.
(And then tell me how to beat the last level.)