It might have started life on the PC three years ago, but the second you start it up FOTONICA feels at home on iOS.
It's all razor-sharp leaping gameplay and stark minimalism, like Canabalt's been flipped 90 degrees and zoomed into a first-person view, then filtered through a Rez-like universe.
Immersion is more evident on the touchscreen, and the net result is a frequently exhilarating, demanding title that plays a lot like a stripped-back Mirror's Edge. Had Mirror's Edge somehow arrived during the rise of 1980s vector arcade games.On the run
A brief tutorial provides you with all you need to know about the controls. Hold the screen and you run forever forwards, increasing in speed with every passing second.
Let go and you soar majestically into the air. Hold the screen again and you prematurely terminate your arc and slowly begin to descend.
Timing is everything, and a single slip-up spells doom. But the viewpoint, visuals, and floaty nature of the jumping combine in a very odd fashion.
Whereas Canabalt has a constant sense of urgency about it, FOTONICA is akin to being trapped in an android's fever dream. Adrenaline-pumping near-deaths are combinined with an odd sense of serenity as you soar above fragmented semi-abstract scenery.Leap of faith
Without doubt, it's these visuals that first draw you in. Regardless of any vector titles you've seen before, you've experienced nothing like FOTONICA. You're hurtling headlong through rapidly shifting and disorienting environments.
One level might find you racing along a fragile train track, another sees you careening through corridors that suddenly disappear, leaving you in open space with only a sliver of roadway between you and the abyss.
All the while, a kind of incessant beefed-up Kraftwerk worms its way into your brain, augmented only by the breaths of the increasingly desperate runner. Your final goal appears to be a leap into a never-ending white abyss.Jump-argh
FOTONICA isn't easy. It's initially tough to judge distances, and the finite arcade levels provide a stern test from the off. You might spend multiple attempts running headlong into the same platform, before realising that jumping a split-second earlier would afford you a safer landing and a higher chance of survival.
In later levels you almost need to run on auto-pilot. Not least when the screen goes gold, and the audio muffles slightly to signify your speed has reached breakneck levels.
For gaming geniuses who somehow manage to breeze through such dizzying trials, a harsher hard option awaits, along with three merciless endless modes that will tax even the most adept. And on both iPad and iPhone there's a split-screen versus option, for challenging a friend.
In an increasingly crowded App Store, it's exceptionally rare to see a runner that does something different, but FOTONICA is, ultimately, a fairly one-note affair.
It's the execution of that single note that transforms the title into an experience that somehow feels entirely new.
Want more? Check out our growing collection of FOTONICA articles!