You might be tempted to feel confident after the first few levels of Neo Angle, the follow-up game from Blyss developer Dropout Games. After all, you just have to move your triangle to a certain spot on the grid, occasionally picking up small fuel cells along the way. Early on, the most challenging part may be refraining from bobbing your head to the music.
But any amount of hubris will be quickly expelled once Neo Angle draws you in to levels 6, 7, 8, and beyond. When you get into the teens, good luck spending less than a couple of minutes per level. This difficulty, plus the retro-style design and music, helps Neo Angle stand out in ways its predecessor did: it’s deceptively challenging, but nailing a level is addicting, drawing you in deeper into the level count.
Each stage is made up of a grid of squares and you, as a triangle within those squares, must navigate to the goal. You’ll do this by reflecting your triangle – if you’re in one half of the square, you’ll flip to the next half. Along the way, you’ll need to collect fuel cells, which are rotating pyramids throughout the map. With fuel cells in hand and a clear path to the end, you’re all set.
One big problem: once you take an action – picking up a fuel cell or flipping a button, for example – your path solidifies, blocking you from returning the way you came. This mechanic is what adds all the challenge to Neo Angle, requiring you to think many steps ahead or risk a level restart. Below is an example of what this looks like:
Without a plan, levels become almost impossible to figure out the first time. And even with a strategy, you’re likely to fail many, many times. Although created as a relaxing puzzle game, Neo Angle can sometimes feel like it’s there to frustrate you – more than once, I’ve had to put it down, take care of something else, and then try to solve the puzzle again.
Take away its difficulty, though, and Neo Angle would fall in line with thousands of puzzle games that require more of your time than your brain power. Instead, it wants you to work smarter, not harder, and in my time playing Neo Angle, it delivers on that desire.
Playing Neo Angle falls right in the middle of “relaxing on the couch” and “pacing around the room, growing more and more impatient,” which is a stimulating place to be. A game with its mechanics and design needs to be tough and rewarding, and Neo Angle checks both those boxes.
If you’re looking to try Neo Angle, you can pick it up in the App Store for iPhone and iPad for $0.99.