From the makers of the Splice and Auditorium, Intake is the latest musical puzzle game from Cipher Prime Studios. If you've never heard of either of these then you've been too busy playing generic Call of Duty iterations. For Pete’s sake people, play some indie puzzlers! Intake is an innovative and fun new addition to Cipher Prime’s increasingly monumental catalog of great games.
At first glance, Intake appears to be a simple game of blasting medication as it trickles down the screen. Two different colored pills fall from heaven and the player moves and flips their reticle to blast the pills with the matching color (i.e. red pills need to blasted by a red reticle). At first, the core challenge is to be quick enough to flip the reticle to the right color before the pills hit the floor. After mastering the flip, players will need to increase their dexterity as the pills fall faster and with incredible fury. Special pills, unlockables, and upgrades add variety to a simple game. Needless to say, these ingredients are perfect for a puzzle game that is meant to be played endlessly.
Most good puzzle games maintain basic gameplay rules at its core. Then, after several levels of ramped up difficulty, good games expand outward with variations that do more than just change the difficulty. These variations force the player to adapt their gameplay, tweak their focus, and, best of all, fail a bit before figuring out the trick. Intake succeeds at adding wonderful new variants without hindering basic gameplay. Just as the speed of the level or the reticle flip gets overwhelming, a power-up floats down offering a helping hand. Not in a way where it might feel like cheating, but with enough challenge to make grabbing the power-up still risky.
With an abundance of unlockables, Intake allows the player to customize their advanced experience without an obvious path of least resistance. For example, for players like me that enjoy having an extra life in reserve, they can buy extra lives after accumulating a certain amount of in-game wealth. Other unlockables include a “big-head” variant, slow-motion variant, and even an invincibility upgrade. These upgrades allow enough of a respite during the intense gameplay to breathe but not much else.
Like most of the developer’s efforts, Intake appears designed with mobile gaming in mind. Although Intake has not been released on iOS or Android, an appearance on phones and tablets is a guarantee. How they plan on implementing the reticle flip on a portable appears puzzing; but there must be a simple solution involved. Cipher Prime is one of the emerging indie developers that thrives on simple but addictive great games. Intake is definitely at the top of its class in addictive gameplay and old-school arcade fun.
Music is a key element to the personality of Intake. A mix of dubstep and cheerleader cheers (no joke), the key composition of this game is designed to amp up the energy and motivate the player. At first I enjoyed the hell out of the music. It was cleverly composed and effective on my pace of play. Unfortunately, after hearing the same cheerleader chorus for the hundredth time, I grew envious of the music in games like Super Hexagon. The philosophic placement of the music has the same role but there are more songs in Super Hexagon to listen to. While simplicity is nice here, a bit more variety would have made the replay value that much higher.
There’s a fair amount of replay value within Intake and at a low price point, a lot of fun can be had. Intake offers a simple gameplay ramp up that makes it accessible to all ages and experience levels. However, to truly master, it requires plenty of pill-blasting practice. Intake is another solid release from Cipher Prime and will likely have even greater success when it sees a release on tablets and handhelds.
This review is based on a PC copy of Intake provided by the publisher.