REVIEW: Iota

I hate to be that guy, but the Cashie Brothers’ Iota ($1.00) comes with both good and bad news to start. The good is it’s a sumptuous-looking 2.5D platformer that uses Ikaruga’s color-swapping mechanic to bypass enemies and obstacles. The bad news is that it uses Ikaruga’s color-swapping mechanic to bypass enemies and obstacles.

Now, let me explain. Whenever anyone mentions Ikaruga as an inspiration for their game, I put on a happy face and a forced smile. The truth is, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’ve taken to labeling it a premonition of things to come, frustrating things. You see, Ikaruga, despite its beloved reputation, and the thousands of admirers that’d surely blast me the second I open my mouth to say anything negative about it, is a hard fucking game. And that’s being poetic about it. If you’ve ever watched an expert playthrough, you will come away from it saying it takes pure witchcraft to reach the end. I’m not saying you need to be an ugly Mila Kunis to beat Iota, but it couldn’t hurt.

As a platformer, it’s fairly basic to start. Using a silly premise (robots steal your power sources, leaving you no way to play video games… the horror!) as an excuse to get you to collect things, you’ll have to jump, hover, and air dash through several pretty stages (the platforming reminded me of Outland, and the visuals, LittleBigPlanet) in order to retrieve said power sources. These energy pellets in turn power your own traversal abilities, also enabling you to absorb bullets and avoid (most) enemies so long as you are of a similar color.

The snap between the blue and fuchsia polarities is simple and unlimited, and the game does a good job in acclimating you to the mechanics… through the first four or five stages. While your moveset seems basic initially, the stage design is more complex. Each level naturally ups the ante in terms of hazards, adding varying amounts of robots, long distance jumps, and turrets, all coming in sequences, that not only test your reflexes, but, in some cases, require precise timing. Oh, and did I mention you can only take one-hit (sometimes two, if you count an ‘extra life’ powerup that randomly spawns) per life? This insistence on perfect runs is my chief beef with the game.

Iota - Screen

Enjoy the lovely blues and fuchsias now; you’ll be swearing later.

To be fair, it’s not as if Iota isn’t forthcoming about its difficulty. The developers have said as much. You should know what you’re getting into. The challenge itself may not be a legitimate criticism to some, but when a game asks you to perform a juggling act with all of your abilities at once, whilst dodging enemies and literally counting the seconds before a platform disappears underneath you, it may have strayed into frustrating territory. The controls, too, feel a bit rough to tackle these tougher sequences, leading to you pulling off the wrong moves for a particular situation.

Iota is still worth a look, so long as you proceed with caution. It’s a fantastic indie showpiece, but the visuals belie a steep challenge, asking a bit too much of some players. That overbearing difficulty makes the Ikaruga flavoring and polarity-switching ironic, seeing as the audience for the game will likely split into opposing factions, love it or hate it.

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Review on Indie Gamer Chick

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18 thoughts on “REVIEW: Iota”

    1. Thanks for posting it here. I’m going to add onto the review later tonight. The ‘extra life’ from the start definitely makes all the difference! Just cleared almost every level and race.

    1. Still ashamed to admit that I have yet to play Super Meat Boy. I feel so… so… incomplete… nay, inadequate, as a human being. One of these days…

  1. If Mila Kunis is an ugly witch the world is upside down. Margaret Hamilton was an ugly witch. Mila? A very seductive green beauty. What’s that? This was a game review? You shouldn’t link photos of Mila Kunis if you expect us to stay on task … but Iota sounds WAY too tough for me. The mention of rough controls is a curse that cannot be overcome.

    1. Only in the context of this review is Mila ugly, rest assured. Although the green witch thing does not do it for me at all, so I regret nothing I said! 🙂

      It is a hard game. One half of the Cashie Brothers, Ruben, has already contacted me to let me know he is working on improving the controls and their responsiveness. That won’t erase the difficult sections of the game, of course, but it might help cut out some of the frustration.

  2. If you laugh in the face of certain death (it’s okay if you weep later) and beat Ikaruga every morning (just for fun) before breakfast, and you’d like to tackle Iota, the Cashie Brothers have graciously provided THREE codes. Simply reply to this comment, and you’ve won a copy of the game.

    1. No pseudo-achievements, and I didn’t reach the end of the game, due to the difficulty. The developers have estimated it at about 3 – 5 hours, and I’d say that’s accurate, if you consider the replays you’ll need for some of those tougher stages.

    2. I’m curious as I’ve always been wondering how much people actually care about pseudo-achievements, considering they don’t net players any gamerscore at all. Celso, have you actually completed the awardments in Face-Plant Adventures? If so, did you feel they achieved to enrich the game?

    3. The end of that comment sounds like a customer survey. 🙂

      Now that the plan on Xbox One is to allow indies access to all those glorious things like REAL achievements / gamerscore and REAL leaderboards, it will be less of a problem.

      So far as the fake achievements on Xbox 360 are concerned, I’ve always wondered why developers didn’t take more advantage of it by offering unlocks through those fake achievements, which would give players an -actual- incentive to complete them. Some do, but a large majority didn’t. I always take a glance at them, though, and if they seem easy or ‘on the way’, then I’ll give them a try.

    4. @skaipio, i am not an achievements hunter, was only a curiosity about IOTA, which is a great game with or without achievements 🙂

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