Remember how long it took to break free of the black and white screen on portable devices?
LCDs and colour just didn't mix until surprisingly recently. And yet, a game like Felllice can now harness that monochromatic limitation and use it to look quite stunning.
Simplistically beautiful or not, a game needs substance, and in that respect the obscurely titled Felllice might be too minimal for its own good.Long division
The game casts itself as a graphical representation of the life of a cell. Just like its inspiration, it's simple and just a little bit brutal.
It's all about manoeuvring your circular cell around the screen looking for smaller cells that can be absorbed by bumping into them.
When this cell's mass is added to your own, you're able to begin attacking slightly larger cells, and by increments, grow to become the biggest.
That’s the ultimate objective of Felllice, by the way. Keep eating until you're the biggest fish in the pond, and then move to the next pond.
Should you run into a cell that's bigger than you, all your hard work unravels and the smaller cells that are caught in your orbit break free.
If you're quick, you can gather most of them back up quite quickly, but you'll still have work to do once they've escaped.
Initially it's quite a task just finding a small enough circle to absorb. At times, however, you can get a foot on the evolutionary ladder by finding fluctuating cells, and grabbing them while they’re in a shrunken state.
It takes a pretty quick finger and crackerjack timing to nab such a being, and if you get your timing wrong you'll find yourself once again floating alone.Under the microscope
Much of Felllice's gameplay is a dexterous challenge, carefully dodging close to larger cells in order to grab the small ones without being touched.
And as neatly presented as the game is, that core element isn't enough to carry the weight of a smartphone game alone.
Fortunately there's a second mode, called Arena, which adds something of a puzzle element to the gameplay. It's an intriguing take on the core mechanics that tasks you with absorbing a single, complex being at the centre of the screen, rather than swimming around looking for cells to feast upon.
The difference here is that you must analyse the shape of this amalgam of different sized cells, and essentially dissect it in the correct order.
The same difficulties are present - it takes precision and speed to pick off the smaller elements without touching the bigger ones, but if you lose cohesion they all now return to their original location.
Felllice is an admirable attempt at creating something quirky and original, and in many ways it succeeds.
Its real sticking point is that the core mechanic upon which all else hinges just isn't massively entertaining, and no amount of stylish visualisation can rescue that.