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​The Hardest iOS Game I Ever Played Is Still Hard But Still a Favorite

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Playing Eliss Infinity is like taking care of a toddler. It's fun, stressful and, if you do it wrong, poop winds up on everything. Ok, maybe not that last part. But, it does communicate the idea that something incredibly valuable in the universe needs the constant attention of your hands to live. No pressure.

The original version of Eliss has stood as one of my favorite iOS titles ever since it came out five years ago. The premise is simple: differently colored blobs of cosmic matter blip into existence and you need to stop them from touching each other and guide them into spots where they explode into stars. But, before you know it, you have to do that a whole lot, on a crowded screen where angry comets and implacable black holes screw up any flow you had going. The game's really a test of how quickly you can do information intake, generate strategy and execute tricky movements. Even when you use all the fingers you can, the difficulty remains daunting. Now's it's been re-invented as Eliss Infinity ($2.99, Apple App Store).


Those little blobs are tricky. Give one too much momentum and it could go careening into something it's not supposed to touch. Leave it in one place too long and a new hazard might pop up right underneath, making life a lot more painful than it was before. Fuse too many of them together and you make a much bigger problem for yourself than you had a few seconds ago. However, the sense of joy and relief that you get when you finish out a tricky level grows in direct proportion to the challenge. I swear, it's just like talking my daughter down from a tantrum. Only when cute jiggly graphics and insanely catchy music.

With this new re-working, designer Steph Thirion's made things just a touch easier with an early warning signal that lets you know when new blobs will touch existing ones. He's also added a new endless play mode called Infinity—which you can see played as a two-player affair in a video done by game-makers Colin and Sarah Northway— that challenges players to keep chaining together starbursts for as long as they can. On top of all that, a cool musical interface that unlocks as you clear levels in the main mode.

One of the best things about Eliss is that its mechanics demand that you play it on a tablet. You couldn't map this game to controller or keyboard inputs and get the same kind of experience. It might work but it wouldn't feel the same. Years after the iPhone upended the video game landscape—at least from a business standpoint—that feeling of uniqueness is still all too rare. It's a good thing, then, that Eliss goes to Infinity.