Eliss is every bit as bold and fresh as Pong, Pac-Man or Tetris were when they first came out. The concept is entirely unique, the stark presentation is sublime, the music is catchy, and on paper at least the idea is fecund with the potential for fun.
There’s just one small problem: getting past the fourth level of Eliss is a feat comparable to making a fleet of forklift trucks levitate with your mind. After playing for five minutes, the floor will likely be home to clumps of hastily torn hair that fluttered through an air heavy with profanity.
And yet, putting it down is almost as hard as making progress with it. It’s a dichotomy that characterizes Eliss from top to bottom.
The game begins with a plinky plunky electronica score, the backbone of which is a beat that thumps in time to the addition of various different coloured circles. You can combine identically coloured circles into a single larger one by dragging the two together, and pulling your fingers apart splits one big circle into two smaller ones.
You have an energy bar in the top left hand corner of the screen which depletes whenever circles of a different colour touch one another. Another effect of clashing two different coloured circles is that the newer of the two will decrease in size as long as it's touching the other one.
There are also spoked circles, each with a colour that corresponds to one of the colours of regular circles already on the screen. The aim is to manoeuvre coloured circles that match the colour of the spoked circles until they are aligned, which causes them to disappear.
The catch (as if one was needed) is that the circle you place inside the spoked circle must fit, which is where the joining and separating of different circles to adjust their size comes in.
This calls for extensive use of multi-touch controls and if you have the nimble joints of a concert pianist, the omniscience of a celestial power and the patience of a saint, they work quite well.
For the rest of us, the necessity to perform four or five simultaneous actions at once sets a pace that’s extremely difficult to maintain for the duration of a level.
At first it seems that the problem is new circles too often materialise directly underneath a circle of another colour already on the screen. This means that if you're busy trying to get rid of another circle on another part of the screen, you can lose half your energy bar before you even notice there was another circle being added.
But that’s not it. The real problem is simply pacing. There are about ten levels of gradual, challenging fun missing between levels 2 and 4, making for an interstellar leap in difficulty that goes from playdough to particle physics in under ten minutes.
Despite this, Eliss persists in making you want to enjoy it, because there’s so much polish, possibility and playfulness here. It’s a strange way for addictiveness to manifest itself, but it’s undeniably present in Eliss.
If an update could temper the extreme difficulty, Eliss would be one of the App Store’s best releases to date. As it stands, this is one for Mensa members only.