This is Ellipsis, a minimalist action game from German developer Salmi Games. It's a deceptively simple shoot-em-up where you don't actually do any shooting. It's coming out on January 25th, but I've been spending a lot of time going through the first few stages. I know you have a lot of questions about Ellipsis, so let's crib this.
This reminds me of something ...
I'm not sure what it reminds you of, but my mind goes directly to Geometry Wars' pacifism mode. This is a game about popping bubbles in a set order and collecting the little gems they hold. You can't shoot or attack in any way, so it's all about dodging the obstacles and staying alive long enough to open up the exit door.
While this simple idea starts out almost comically easy, it begins to add new wrinkles and challenges with every stage. You'll start to see homing missiles, laser attacks, slow-moving doors and even the occasional boss battle. There are stages where you have to navigate around a bunch of hexagons that mess with the gravity, while other times you will need to sneak past dormant enemies to avoid waking them up. There's a real nice variety of challenges to overcome, and it never felt like the game ran out of fresh ideas.
Wait, it's the same goal in every stage?
That's right, your mission is always to pop the bubbles in the right order and pick up the gems that spew forth. You don't have to pop all of the bubbles or even collect every last gem, but that's the objective if you want to earn all four stars in each stage. What's more, you can replay every level and go for an elusive fifth star. You do this by popping all of the bubbles as fast as possible, which will give you a time bonus.
But, again, it's worth mentioning that the full game will have plenty of content. The developers are aiming for at least 150 stages. While I certainly zipped through a lot of the easier stages, there were a few towards the end that took multiple tries. I can see how this game might become extremely taxing by the end.
What's next, talk about awards?
Actually, yes. Since you brought it up, I might as well mention that Ellipsis won both the Action Game and Game of the Year prizes at Intel's 2016 Level Up Game Development Contest. This was an especially competitive year that included more than 330 entries, including a number of big hitters. They even traveled to my neck of the woods to accept their awards at PAX West, where their little "avoid-em-up" action game caught a lot of people off guard. If Ellipsis is any indication, then 2017 is going to be a great year.
Ellipsis is a great example of a simple idea executed to near perfection. There's something a little different about every stage, and the game does an excellent job of shoveling new obstacles on the unsuspecting player. There are still a lot of levels and ideas left for the final retail build, but this whet my appetite and gave me hope for the new year. Based on what I've played, Ellipsis is worth checking out when it hits Steam on January 25.