We go hands-on with this tricky shooter with a twist.
Last year, Modojo's parent company Gamer Network launched Rezzed, an event to showcase the best of PC and indie gaming. Our personal highlight of the show in 2012 was Tengami, a beautiful pop-up puzzle game that we're delighted to see make a return this year, but it was PC indie development that dominated in the show's inaugural year.
In 2013, there are considerably more mobile and tablet developers dotted around the conference, some with entire booths to themselves, while those with more experimental games are to be found tucked away here and there amongst the bustle of the conference. Michael Brough's Helix is one such curio amongst the more prominent titles, but it's no less fascinating for it.
It's an arena shooter of sorts, but with one crucial difference - there are no weapons to fire here. Instead, you need to pilot your pixellated craft around the organic alien objects that continually spawn on the screen. Complete an orbit around any of these objects, and they'll evaporate, adding to your score.
Simple though the gameplay seems on paper, it is almost indescribably tricky to play, as you desperately try to weave your way to safety, while also taking out the on-screen danger. But despite the game's difficulty, it remains satisfying to play in the same way that teeth-gnashing titles like Impossible Road and Super Hexagon compel you to return for just one more taste of frustration.
It's a hook that wouldn't be possible without some very clever controls. With one finger, positioned anywhere on the screen, movement feedback is precise and immediate. It's uncanny, in fact, and with only the lightest of touches you assume absolute control - essential for a game such as this, where player failure must remain the only barrier to success.
As if the base game wasn't tricky enough, there are even harder modes to unlock as you reach new scoring milestones. We got a taste of the highest tier of challenge on the developer build, and after several attempts we managed a score of - wait for it - 1. An odd source of pride for sure, but we'll take it.
There's no fixed release date for Helix. As a side project of developer Michael Broughton, it will simply be done when it's done. He's hopeful for a release before the end of this year, however, and we're confident that fans of frustration gaming will find it to be well worth the wait.