High-concept puzzling with time-bending astronauts
Price: $1.99 / £1.99
Size: 165 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Time and space. Cause and effect. Then, inevitably, trial and error. These are the pillars of Causality, a brain-melting puzzle game that will tax and delight players in equal measure.
At its core the puzzles are a simple affair: guide a series of colorful astronauts to safety by directing them to their matching goal areas. Characters move automatically, but manipulating certain floor panels can point them on their way. Easy enough, right? The twist is that you don’t just have to decide what to change, but also when to change it; time stands still in this world until you scrub up or down the screen to play or rewind the story below.
After the first world the game introduces additional time-altering mechanics to complicate things further, creating branching timelines and potential paradoxes as far as the eye can see. It’s complicated to explain, but everything feels natural as the game introduces concepts slowly to allow your brain to catch up with what’s going on.
At points you can send an astronaut back in time far enough that he reappears before he’s even got to the time-travel panel in the first place. This is necessary to find the most efficient routes through each level, and there’s just something effortlessly cool about directing an astronaut to open a gateway for his former self.
There’s more: strange tentacle monsters writhe underfoot, while path-blocking pillars can be a help or a hinderance in different situations. Eventually you’ll have to contend with a combination of switches, monsters, arrows, cracked floor tiles, wormholes and more. If that sounds like a bit of a headache, well, that’s because it is. But it’s a good kind of headache!
With all this to toy with, it’s no surprise that you’ll occasionally break time and space by literally running into yourself. If that happens, you’ll have to rewind and make some changes until the paradox disappears. Luckily, the way the interface is designed makes it really easy to experiment and instantly see the results of your actions. It’s a shame the game never mixes up interaction beyond tweaking arrows, but the ever-expanding range of hazards makes up for it.
It’s clear right from the opening menus that a lot of love has gone into the design of this game. The presentation is impeccable throughout, with VHS-style glitches and sound effects supporting the time-travel theme perfectly. The 60 levels take place in strangely beautiful abstract landscapes, and it takes some time to work though them all.
Background elements grow in and out of existence to show the passage of time, while little icons on the timeline show when significant events take place. It’s a really neat package, and though it won’t be for everyone the game doesn’t do much wrong. Our only real grievance is that the game isn’t subtitled A Brief History of Time and Spacemen. (Sorry.)
Causality is a unique spin on the turn-based action puzzler, well-polished and full of clever challenges. It feels a bit like the excellent Lara Croft GO, if you swap backflips and gunplay for space monsters and time travel. If that sounds like your kinda thing, you’re in for a treat. But be warned: you’ll need your very best thinking cap on for this one.
- Great concept and execution
- Smart timeline-based controls
- Lots of challenging levels and hazards
- Only one real type of interaction
- Might melt your brain