In the rare times I’m not playing video games,shouting at my PC or just staring into space thinking about spaniels in top hats, I busy myself with my day job in the pathology lab at the local hospital. The main thrust of my role being to move all manner of delightful bodily fluids from one place to another, and ‘Cyto’ refers to the place we send all the semen samples and cervical scrapes to be analysed. So when I was handed the iOS game ‘Cyto’ to review, needless to say it came with a few preconceptions on my part.
As it turns out my preconceptions were not as far from the truth as should be expected. Cyto has you playing though a seemingly microscopic world of cells and viruses, so in my mind the game is about fighting to escape STD’s. The real story of the game however is a little more oblique but is mainly about discovering the story rather than the story itself. You play as a small jelly like creature that can be flung around the level while you collect ‘Memories’ which, in the vein of Ilo Milo (a quite fantastic XBLA game that I can’t recommend enough), once you have collected enough it gives you a small, very small, element of back story. Like really small. Like 6-7 words and a little picture to make of it what you will.
Although on the face of it it would seem that the developers, Room 8 (or Ro8om as their website implies), want to make you care about the back story and the world it is, in reality it is of no importance and will – by most people – be thrown away and forgotten. Cyto is at its heart another in a long line of iOS games that base themselves on the pull/flick mechanics of Angry Birds and every mobile game that followed, hoping to cash in. You start in one place and need to get to a portal at the end of the area. There are several islands dotted around that you can cling to and 3 of the aforementioned ‘memories’ per level to collect along the way. It’s a fun, simple premise and the mechanics work well, but it does seem to come down to looking for the right path and then following it. As with most games of this ilk there is a problem with screen size. If, like me, you chose to play on an iPhone instead of an iPad, your fat stumpy fingers and thumbs get in the way when pinpoint precision is needed. Or maybe that’s just me. There are 3 worlds so far (more are promised to follow later, as seems to be the fashion) but there is no real difficulty until you reach world 3 and they start introducing timed elements. This gives the feel that they’ve basically put out an unfinished game and you are merely playing a long tutorial, to keep you going till they finish with the rest. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, just that it feels a little hollow.
Ro8om (as I shall insist on calling them) have attempted to to fill this apparent emptiness with the storyline of self discovery and atmospheric music, even going so far as to encourage you at the beginning of the game to use headphones to better enjoy the experience. And to be fair the music is good. A nice calming, somewhat melancholic piano based piece which does its job of building atmosphere very well indeed, but as said before, it does kind of feel like it’s there to cover up the lack of game.
I’m being quite downbeat on Cyto, which is odd because the main thing I want from this game is more of it. Ro8om have made a good start to this game and I like to think that at some point down the line they were forced to put out what they have rather than waiting till the whole package was done, and maybe throwing out a few of the unnecessary and easy early levels which is what they really wanted to do. But I can’t go using imaginary office politics to review a game now can I? (Can I? Please Ed?) So I will just have to say that this is a game with a lot of potential, but hopes that if it plays its stereo loud enough you won’t notice that this potential hasn’t quite been fulfilled.
+ Looks very impressive.
– Not really suitable for a small iPhone screen.
+ Great score and sound effects.
+ Good, simple mechanics
– Takes too long to get briefly challenging