Review: Euclidean Lands15 Apr 2017 0
Review: Euclidean Lands
Released 12 Mar 2017
I made the mistake of typing “Euclidean” into Google, and was treated to a wall of information on space, shapes, Greek mathematicians, and so on. I bloody hate math, which had me concerned going into Euclidean Lands on what exactly I had agreed to review. Thankfully, the game does not force you to explain algorithm and geometry. Instead, solo developer Miro Straka has taken the turn-based gameplay of Square-Enix’s Go series (Hitman, Lara Croft, Deus Ex), and bolted it onto a Rubik’s cube. Add a sprinkle of Monument Valley’s visual aesthetic, and what you are left with is something rather special. You would be forgiven for thinking the game is an imitation of these titles, but you would also be severely wrong.
Released for iOS, each stage of Euclidean Lands takes place on some variation of the aforementioned 80s combination puzzle toy, which expands or adds a new layer of difficulty as you progress. The objective is to eliminate all enemies within that contained space, thereby unlocking a portal - usually hidden out of plain view – to be reached to finish the stage. The camera is fixed by swiping in the open areas of the screen, you can rotate the full cube left and right, but you can't spin it up and down.
The two things of note when comparing to the Go series (it’s difficult not to) is the inclusion of the z-axis and the manipulation of the environment, which is what the weight of the gameplay relies on. Movement takes two forms: moving your avatar from square to square, one tap at a time, or by rotating the cube, which, depending on the stage, can be split into multiple layers. You know in Hitman Go how you have to think several steps ahead so you don’t end up in the sights of a security guard? Euclidean Lands adds on to this by making you need to think about your location before rotating a layer of the cube around.
The crux of the Go comparison is centered on movement and engagement with enemies. In the beginning you’ll find them fixed in place, with their potential reach clearly signaled on the grid-based floor. Taking them out is a simple process of approaching from the side or behind. Naturally, their AI advances, new enemies are introduced, and soon, they will be moving and flipping the environment around, on top of the environment slowly increasing in complexity. There is a decent curve on the difficulty; Miro has done an excellent job with pacing here, introducing mechanics at a steady rate without overwhelming the player.
The game plays fair by allowing you to slowly rotate a layer around, letting you preview what the end result of that move would look like. An argument could be made that it severs the challenge somewhat, as unless you try to rush through a level, you will always be able to cancel running head first into the enemy, but the game introduces mechanics that change this up, with levels that will move a random row or column of the cube after each turn, taking the control out of the player’s hands and forcing you to tread carefully with each step.
With each passing the stage the end goal and how to get there becomes less obvious, meaning wildly swiping at the screen will typically end with your demise or going around in circles (as would happen with an actual Rubik’s Cube). A small icon is in the top right corner, allowing you to see the minimum steps required to beat the level. Thankfully, the game does not beat you over the head with this, rather it keeps this information neatly tucked in the corner, allowing players who wish to aim for the lowest scores possible a way to track their steps, and everyone else a chance to just the enjoy the game without the added pressure.
Purchasing the game unlocks everything there is to offer, meaning no pesky IAPs to ruin the flow of the gameplay. Though I would happily pay for an expansion pack in the future. A minimalistic soundtrack compliments the game, sitting pleasantly in the background. There are no peaks and valleys; instead, it flows like a gentle murmur, never intruding in on the gameplay. Sound effects are also kept to a minimum, but the sound of rotating the environment around creates the sound of two rocks slowly sliding into place – it’s oddly satisfying and helps to create an immersive experience. The difficulty in some of the later levels will break up the immersion, but it is recommended to try the game for a while with a pair of headphones and the volume turned up.
Euclidean Lands feels right at home on a touchscreen device. The ease of moving the environment about feels graceful and natural, and the smooth animations help to make the game feel satisfying to play, especially when the geometry expands out, showing more of the level hidden underneath. The art style invokes M.C Escher, and overall has a rich, warm tone that is pleasing on the eye. Playing at pace you will find around 3-4 hours worth of gameplay, but that could be bumped up if you struggle with some of the more complex stages.