Mobile Game of the Week: Circadia (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: Circadia (iOS)


Platform: iOS
Developer: Kurt Bieg
Publisher: Simple Machine
Release Date: 02/22/2012
Price: $0.99

Circadia gets its name from circadian rhythm, but this game is less like biology than algebra. One train leaves a station headed due south at 20 miles per hour. A second train’s traveling west at 45 miles per hour. When are they going to ram in to each other? More importantly, when are they going to ram into a much smaller, less colorful train that’s just sort of hanging out on the middle of the tracks? Oh, and can you give the trains a little nudge to start ‘em up?

Circadia is a tricky rhythmic puzzler with a stark visual sense. There are a cluster of orbs on a black screen. One is small and white. Around it are two or more larger, colored orbs. When you touch one of these orbs it chimes and emits a circular wave. The goal is for all these waves to strike the white orb at the same time. Of course the waves move at different speeds depending on the color of the orb it comes from – the brighter the color the faster the wave. The colored orbs also aren’t equidistant from the white orb. The trick is figuring out the right rhythm for striking the colored orbs and shooting those waves towards the target.

This probably sounds really easy. And it is, at first. Of course it gets harder as you progress through its one hundred levels. The colored orbs keep calling in reinforcements, going from two to three to four per puzzle. The white orb starts to move, adding in an extra variable. At higher levels that single white orb splits into a tiny squadron, sometimes all moving in different directions and at different speeds. That’s a common-sense manipulation of the game’s core system, but it’s also extremely frustrating to figure out the right timing. Of course the inevitable release of that frustration once you solve a puzzle is a large part of why you play games like Circadia, right?

Circadia demands patience. Not many games do. Even puzzle games usually pit you against a timer or an endless stream of whatever type of object you’re trying to match three of. Circadia’s puzzles are discretely assembled systems whose properties are fixed and immediately knowable. It’s not about dealing with change but cracking each puzzle’s code. Patience is needed to figure out that system and trigger the waves in the right sequence and at the right moments.

It can take time to acclimate to Circadia’s particular rhythms and get past the urge to rush inculcated by a lifetime of gaming. When you reach that point you’ll play so much Circadia you might start to see tiny little orbs on the inside of your eyelids when you go to sleep at night.