I do love when developers think outside the box. Unfortunately, that’s not something that happens so very often, because they are rarely prepared to take any risks. Instead, they mostly try to subserviently suck-up to gamers, giving them just what they want, or they think they want, which results in a drab uniformity of the gaming offer with an overplus of titles providing more of the same. However, when it finally does happen that developers don’t fear to show their creativity and produce something wonderfully unconventional, it’s all the more reason for celebration. Broken Rules, an indie Austrian studio whose lovely game Old Man’s Journey we already featured on our site, is obviously specialized in entirely unorthodox games. Their latest exercise in unconventionality is called ELOH and it’s a sound-based puzzle game for Android and iPhone devices which will allow you to manipulate animal spirits in order to produce simple melodies.
Of course, games where music and sound are integral parts of the gameplay, aren’t really a new thing, but this is the first puzzle game that I know of, that features such pronounced audio component. When you first start the game, or even when you read about it, its concept may seem totally abstract, as if it’s somehow deeply steeped in musical theory and will require of you a pitch-perfect hearing, or at least a degree of primary music school. However, in reality, things are much simpler. Your goal is merely to guide a sound represented as a line (or sound-wave, rather) of a certain color to its receptacle marked with the same color. You’ll do that by placing animal spirits on its path so that sound-wave can be reflected (kind of like a ball from bumpers in the pinball machine) and directed to its destination. You’ll start off easy with just one or two animal spirits, but combinations will gradually become more complicated with several sound-waves that need to be guided, more spirits and “bumpers” you must turn around their axis and manipulate in other ways in order to provide the right angle. The most beautiful part of this whole process is that you’ll create genuine music along the way. Animal spirits are cleverly designed to remind on masks or carved faces taken from some tribal totem pole, and each one has its distinct voice and character, so when sound-wave touches it, it will be changed like a ray of light that passes through a prism.
The “voices” that animal spirits give out have a pleasant and mellow ring to it as if they are made by some primitive percussive tribal instruments, like timpani, claves, timbales, beads, wooden xylophones, small drums, rattles and shell shakers, all created of simplest possible and most natural materials. But in their raw, primal and untufted simplicity, they also awfully remind of the sounds that can be heard in the Mother Nature. When you finally start arranging them in more complex melodies, with more animal spirits involved, you’ll actually realize that they are based on self-generated rhythms found gently pulsating throughout the natural world, such as constant dripping of water, rhythmic sound of the wind in forest branches, tapping birds make on the wood bark in search of insects, and even that intimate, innermost sound we all carry in ourselves – our very own heartbeat.
ELOH is a truly wonderful game with neat and delicate visuals and meditative, zen-like quality which will relax and reinvigorate you. Although it has “just” 85 levels that you can burn through relatively easily, each one will feel like a soothing meditation session taken in some tranquil forest full of gentle whispers, rustle and murmurs – which will only be enhanced by the fact that the game doesn’t have a time limit, paywalls, pop-up ads or anything else to ruin your fun and good mood.