Ion Swarm from Tremor Games is a minimalistic experience. The game puts you in command of gently drifting specks of blue matter. Your first task? To use these particles to capture the grey blobs of neutral matter. Captured grey matter turns into more blue matter. These you hoard, build up and shape into a force that you can use to obliterate the clumps of dark matter scattered across the level (by colliding into them). These are your only goals. The game starts off with a small tutorial that teaches you this, and then you’re on your own.
Capture, and obliterate. There’s no plot or storyline, just gameplay backed by matching, space-like visuals – mostly particle effects - and electronic music.
Surprisingly, this game is much, much tougher than you might expect. Sending a speck of blue matter into a speck of dark matter will give you – one speck of grey matter. So far so good. But be warned: dark matter can capture the grey stuff, too. In every assault you need enough blue matter to wipe out the dark and capture the resulting greys; otherwise you end up giving the bad guys (in this case, the bad blobs) more numbers for their clumpy armies. This you learn within seconds of your first collision with the dark.
For such a minimalistic game, this gives enough depth and strategy to actually require the player to think well before moving. Since the dark matter usually outnumbers your blue matter, the game sees you targeting and nuking small, localized bits of dark matter before aiming for the bigger clumps. The strategy in this Ion Swarm is one of numbers.
My only gripe with the game are the controls. The system is well-implemented, but the paths that the particles follow to your target are pretty arcs that fools you into thinking you got the selection wrong.
While this takes a match or two to get used to, it’s not a major gripe. The game is simple (even the menus are minimalistic – no unnecessary buttons!) , the music and visuals match perfectly without getting in the way, and it’s very easy to pick up and play. Randomly generated levels ensure that you’re always be able to play it without getting bored. A solid, enjoyable game.