For those familiar with Jeff Minter’s past work, Deflex will come as something of a surprise. Minter’s games are known for their breathless pace – with iOS titles Minotron: 2112 and Minotaur Rescue ramping up the action to a level few other smartphone games can match.
Deflex features its creator’s trademark woozily psychedelic visuals and obsession with camelids, but opts for a much more relaxed approach - Minter does casual, if you like.
But behind the calming pianoforte backing and gentle encouraging cheers lies a game that is every bit as perplexing as his previous efforts.Buffalo stance
Initially, the game seems forgiving enough that the complexity washes over you. The object is to guide a pulsing orb, tapping the left or right side of the screen to place mirrors that change its path in order to collect floppy disks, bananas, or bison, for example.
Complicating matters is the fact that these reflectors will flip as soon as they’re struck by the orb. At first, this seems confusing, as it looks like you’ve pressed the wrong button, even if the ball bounces off at the angle intended.
Early levels are free of furniture and free of pressure, allowing you to clear the screen in your own time.
Then, breakable walls are added, objects start to move around, and what started off as a relaxing time-waster suddenly turns into a panicked pursuit. There may be no Game Over, but finishing a level with a score of zero is curiously troubling.
Contrarily, as the stakes are upped things get quieter, the piano backing fading slowly the longer the ball travels without picking something up.
The early stages see you placing a small handful of mirrors – as you reach the end of a level you’ll be feverishly tapping the screen in desperation as your addled brain struggles to work out which direction the orb will head in next.
At first it seems unfathomable – then, slowly, it starts to make sense. Prolonged play reprograms the mind, and while the visual fuzziness may never entirely clear (the deliberately lo-fi visuals suggest Minter will never fully embrace HD), the mental fog begins to dissipate.
Before too long, score multipliers will rocket upwards as your synapses instantly fire upon entering a level, your brain working out the ideal route as the ball begins to move.
Of course, the best laid plans can still go horribly awry, but the discordant notes that sound from imperfect pathfinding soon turn into something altogether more melodious.
All the while, confidence-boosting words of reassurance – a ‘yay’ here, a ‘way to go’ there – provide additional aural stimulus. It’s easy to underestimate just how much this compels you to continue - suffice to say that any frustration is fleeting.
Even so, it’s unlikely that Deflex will attract an army of new converts to the Minter cause – some will take one look at its gaudy looks and run a mile - but for those who embrace his idiosyncrasies this is another iOS gem to treasure.