It's the quiet ones you have to watch out for.
Every mobile gamer knows just how over-saturated the App Store is with physics puzzlers, and the majority of developers seem to be engaged in an arms race to make their titles louder and brasher so as to stand out from the crowd. It's obviously working, but it does mean that when a quieter, yet more thoughtful game like Cyto comes along, you have to worry that its charms will be lost in all the bluster.
Cyto's method of stepping away from that crowd isn't just limited to its subtle and under-stated style though. Rather than having to arbitrarily grab three "stars" in a round for bragging rights, you need to gather fragments of memories from each level to unlock the story of a microbial creature, stranded far from home, and with no knowledge of how he came to find himself in this predicament.
To do this you'll have to fling him around the screen in a very specific sequence of maneuvers. Pulling back on the creature stretches his jelly-like coating, and the further you pull back the further he'll fly. If he hits a tuft of vegetation on the next orb he'll stick to it, allowing you to work your way gradually around the level. To add even more complexity, he can be stretched between two tufts to turn him into a sort of catapult - one capable of launching him even further.
By the time you reach the second set of 27 levels, you'll also have to factor in the cross-streams that run through the levels, causing Cyto to drift off course towards danger or, when expertly handled, towards safety. This compounds the tricky nature of capturing all three memories, and once you start allowing for bouncy surfaces, portals, and memories which - literally - fade over time, what you're left with is a uniquely challenging puzzler.
And sometimes that challenge is just a little too much. You'll need to gather so many of the memory fragments to unlock each set of stages, and trajectories can be frustratingly difficult to judge - particularly when you need to just skim a surface to grab a piece of memory, while avoiding a piece of deadly coral at the same time. All of this can be forgiven given the overwhelming polish found elsewhere in the game though, and it's not necessary to capture every memory - just enough of them so you can tease open the next stage.
Every review you read of Cyto will enthuse over the game's simple but stunning visuals, but a special mention also has to be made for its soundtrack. Upon firing the game up you'll be urged to play it wearing headphones, and we really can't echo that recommendation strongly enough. Composer David Ari Leon's score is a gentle but stirring one that contributes much to an enormously absorbing game.
Don't let Cyto get lost in the noise of the brasher physics puzzlers on the App Store. It may have its moments of frustration, ones where you feel the game is working against you just a little more than is strictly fair, but this is still one of the finest new games you can get for your mobile this week, and we want to see more of its kind in 2013.
What's Hot:Cyto's got atmosphere, originality, charm and variety in spades.
What's Not:The physics system can be a fiddly affair, particularly in the latter half of the game.