iO is developed by the Amsterdam based studio, Gamious who endeavour to create “accessible games with pure and original gameplay.” In this regard they have certainly succeeded. The game is described as “an abstract puzzle platformer about size and speed.” Which is certainly true. The game itself is simple in its design, you must steer a ball through a maze to reach a goal at the other end. What makes iO interesting is that you have free control over the size of that ball, thus by using a basic understanding of the laws of physics you are able to create solutions for the increasingly difficult levels that are presented. A larger ball will roll downhill faster while a smaller one requires less momentum to travel through the air.
Platforms: Ouya, Steam (PC, Mac, Linux)
This premise is simple and well-executed. Even basic variations on levels can provide challenging new puzzles that can require some quick thinking. This is before the addition of other features to complicate matters. Lava, moving platforms and movable objects all add their own twists in the gameplay mechanic before you even begin to think with portals. One of the great strengths of this game is creating a level that looks easy but turns out to be more complicated than it seemed. An example of this was a level in which the goal sat above the starting position but below a portal. A second portal sat at the end of a ramp. The straightforward solution turned into repeated close misses of the goal as the game displayed how effective its physics system is, as the ball continued in its natural arc, forcing several attempts until a working trajectory was found.
While the levels can be challenging, the controls remain straightforward. You can play the game with one hand. Size up, shrink down, roll left and roll right are all controlled with the directional pad. As a result the controls are instinctual, which is handy as the game runs on a time trial mechanic. A faster time results in a medal, bronze to gold depending on how quickly you get through the level.
The game itself contains 150 levels to play through but once you’ve finished these it offers little in terms of replayability. While the game is nice and its time trials and leaderboard offer a competitive element there is no real incentive to work on polishing up those times. If you were to rush through it it’s unlikely you’d get the full enjoyment out of the game. It is really best suited to being played in short bursts. This raises the question of whether it is best suited for the PC market. iO feels like a game that could shine on a handheld or smartphone for those longer bus trips as quick boredom killer. Because of this I can’t entirely say that its price tag of €7.99 on Steam is entirely warranted. Certainly a fantastic game but only worth buying if on sale. A free demo is available containing the first 10 levels and is worth downloading to try the gameplay out for yourself.
Overall it can be said that, despite its good qualities, iO can’t be fully recommend purchasing for its full price. It does not feel quite at home on PC, probably owing to its origins on the android-powered microconsole, Ouya. However it’s worth trying the demo for a taster and keeping an eye on it during sales, as it was recently available at 50% off and is a decent price at that point.