I feel like a broken record when I say that puzzle games are few and far between. This genre in particular sees its way onto storefronts on a massively regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, more, for the most part, is a good thing. However, with that in mind, when you have so much of one thing, it can be hard to separate the chaff from the wheat. Energy Cycle Edge is the latest puzzle-only game to hit the Xbox One, and let me tell you, this is by far the most uninteresting puzzle game that I’ve had the displeasure of putting my time into.
Those of you that played the first game, Energy Cycle, will know exactly what to expect. Players are presented with a series of progressively complex, numbered levels. The menu layout and the game’s UI is clean and concise, I’ll give it that much. However, the game is as ignorant as they come. The game doesn’t give you an ounce of understanding as to how it should be played. I had to hit some Google just to get a grasp. Seriously, there’s no tutorial, no help pages in-game, nothing. That, is a very poor first impression for any puzzle game.
I checked the options page, only to find a bunch of generic selections and little else. The problem here is that because Energy Cycle Edge’s concept is so distinct, it’s not even easy to work out what you’re supposed to be doing from the moment you dive into the first level. Once I had a slight understanding as to what was expected from me, I went back into the level selection screen (of which there’s over forty levels in total) and tried my best. The game’s levels are split into four sections; 180 degrees, 90 degrees, 45 degrees and full 3D.
When you select a level and dive in, you’re greeted with a layout of cells that come in varying colors. The aim of the game is to make all of these cells the same color; blue, green or orange. The rules of play are simple. When you activate a cell to change its color, it will also activate any other cell that’s directly connected to it, as well as any adjacent cells in a straight line beyond that. The first collection of (180 degree) levels are not that taxing to begin with once you get a firm grasp of the concept. Though, that doesn’t mean it fun.
I saw myself yawning from the get-go, hoping for something exciting to pop along soon after. Sadly, that moment just never arrived. Nevertheless, I plodded on. Using the D-Pad, you’ll move your selector to whichever cell that you wish to manipulate, and then press A to change its color. Both RB and LB will rotate the grid that these cells rest upon. With the 180 degree levels aside (this function serves no purpose here), you’ll use this move the grid in either direction to alter the colors of the cells that are situated the grid’s alternate faces.
This function becomes especially complex later in the game. Several times did I find myself with just a few cells out of color-sync, only to find that they could also be manipulated on another of the grid’s faces. As alluded to above, the 180 degree levels are two dimensional as far as puzzle solving is concerned. Though, as you move to the 90 degree, the 45 degree, and the full 3D levels, you’ll have multiple grid faces that you’ll need to work through. Believe me when I say, ladies and gents, the difficulty spike is absolutely ridiculous here.
I’ve been unable to solve any of the later puzzles, not through lack of effort, I might add. The game’s biggest drawback is that it just doesn’t give you anything to go with. You’re literally dumped into the game with no explanation whatsoever, and expected to make heads or tails of everything within. It doesn’t help matters that the game just outright sucks. Further to that, it’s unforgivably frustrating. This is clearly a game for the veteran puzzle fans. I know this because, despite enjoying the odd brain teaser myself, this is Rubik’s-like complexity.
Had the game have had more of an accessible learning curve, or even just a hint or two, it may have been more enjoyable. However, as it stands, it’s the most irritating puzzle game since its predecessor. Sure, the foundation of play works as a basis, and to its credit, the game functions exactly as it should, but that means very little in the face of its ignorance. Perhaps it would have helped if we had more fluid camera movement, or full 360 degree control at the touch of a thumb-stick, but instead, we get a stiff, sloppy experience at best.
I don’t doubt that this will indeed please those die-hard puzzle fans out there, but that audience is the only audience that it’s likely to appeal to. Even then, and under those parameters alone, it’s still barely passable. More often than not, I simply button mashed my way through some of the harder levels in a desperate attempt to align the colors correctly. This isn’t just down to my skill (or lack thereof, apparently) but down to the fact that the game doesn’t do well as far as its viewpoints are concerned. It all just looks too rough.
The game’s visuals are far from impressive. Brightly colored cells that represent some messy mass, resting upon a blackened background with a selector that, at times, is difficult to keep track of. The techno soundtrack stands out as the game’s highlight, offering a decent tune to listen to as you slowly start losing your will to continue. When all is said and done, if you enjoyed Energy Cycle, you’re more than likely to enjoy what’s on offer here. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for something less taxing, more achievable, and fun, look elsewhere.
Energy Cycle Edge is every bit as alienating as it is ignorant. The game is completely without accessibility, largely due to its overly steep difficulty spike and the fact that it’s devoid of any tutorials or tips. This wouldn’t usually be an issue, but for a puzzle-only game that comes with a such a distinct process, it’s disconcerting and confusing to say the very least. Even once you eventually grasp its concept, there’s little fun to be found here.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.