Minimalist visuals and atmospheric design are some of the handiest tools in an indie studio’s arsenal. Simple polygons and electronic soundscapes are much cheaper to produce than the bump-mapped, fully orchestrated worlds of big-budget studios. In the case of Gamebrain Studio‘s newest puzzler VOI, this minimalism extends beyond aesthetics into the core of the gameplay, which foregoes new mechanics to create an intriguing, yet short-lived puzzle experience.
VOI is a mind-trip of a shape puzzler. At the start of each level, you’ll be presented with a target shape, to be recreated on a grid from a collection of broken pieces. However, these pieces will bear little resemblance to the target shape. Herein lies VOI’s hook: eye-trickery. Two overlapping black shapes produce a void where they meet, negative space which proves essential to achieving each level’s goal. Each of the game’s 66 levels are well-honed, enjoyable to play, and immensely satisfying to complete. However, 66 levels is a very small amount of content for a title with such an intriguing concept. I would have liked to see more mechanics introduced, or another batch of levels with a larger grid and trickier puzzles. However, Gamebrain Studio promises that more levels are coming soon, and I eagerly anticipate experiencing more when the time comes.
My gameplay experience verged on pure excellence, but the round grid at the bottom of the screen admittedly gave me some trouble. Just as it’s notoriously difficult to organize furniture along a curved wall, I found it frustrating to organize my tiles on a round grid. For large or strangely-shaped pieces, the spacial constraint presented an unnecessary hindrance. Aesthetically, the circular grid was a pleasing choice, but a rectangular grid would leave more room for players to easily move their pieces around the screen.
Even with its frustrating grid design and lack of content, my time with VOI was an absolute pleasure. Its puzzles are tricky but rarely frustrating, the visuals are fantastic, and the soundtrack by Andrew Isaias draws the player into the experience, encouraging them to explore the mysterious powers at their fingertips, while never drawing too much attention to itself. I look forward to playing new levels when they’re released, and heartily recommend VOI to all puzzle fans. At its current price point of $0.99, it’s well worth the purchase.