It was exactly one week ago last night that I fell in love, and to be quite honest I’m still at a little bit of a loss for words. The new object of my desire? She’s Eliss, an iPhone game, and I say that only slightly facetiously, because I’m not entirely exaggerating when I admit to getting goosebumps every time I even just see her in the video above.
If her name rings half a bell, it’s because Eliss, from Barcelona/NY designer Steph Thirion, is up for this year’s design innovation award in the Independent Games Festival’s mobile division. I’d known that, but, even after posting about the entrants in this year’s awards, didn’t even pay it much mind: its preview shot was so abstract and frankly fairly ugly, stretched and muddied with jpeg compression that it didn’t make a lasting impression, like trying to size up a new Facebook/MySpace crush on poor photos alone.
But as soon as I’d laid hands on the playable code, it clicked. Like I said: I’m still not sure exactly what it is in me that Eliss laser-targets and tweaks, but for as many games as pass my eyes and hands in any given week, it’s a connection that’s rare. Part of it’s the music, surely, the tender electronic loops somewhere in the neighborhood of I am Robot and Proud or E*vax, but it’s also the game’s design itself.
Because there isn’t another game like Eliss — she’s one in a million. Thirion describes it most poetically:
Your job is to keep up harmony in an odd universe made of blendable planets. Touch-control multiple planets at once, join them together into giant orbs or split them up into countless dwarf planets, and match their size with the squeesars. Wipe off the stardust, resist the attraction of the vortex and other space phenomena, and slow down the passage of time. Each of the 20 levels will require creative ways and strategies in using your fingers. Warm up your hands, you’re up for some serious finger gymnastics in the bizarro galaxy.
But you don’t really needs words — and the game actually offers you precious few, just the iconic instructions seen in the video above — because for as abstract as it is, it appeals to exactly that innate sense of order and accomplishment as Tetris. Keep like colors together, join and split shapes to fill the vibrating ‘squeesar’ frames, and at all costs don’t let mis-matched colors touch.
Eliss gets all its vitality out of the economy of those three simple rules, multi-tasking them on a second by second basis, and is only made more difficult over time by overcrowding the field more quickly and introducing elements like those vortexes which slowly draw the objects together.
is currently undergoing the gauntlet of Apple’s approval process, but Thirion expects it to be released by the end of the month, is now available on the App Store [iTunes link] and I’m excited for you all to meet her, because there’s a lot to her that typifies precisely what good gaming should be about.