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The beautiful minimalism of Phases and The Line Zen



Released in 2014 by Ketchapp, Phases was a great success, hitting the top charts on iOS and Android and reaching millions of players in the process. It has a great soundtrack (you can listen to it here) which reminds me of the 8 and 16 bit eras of console gaming.  

The game is very challenging and can be, at times, incredibly frustrating. It doesn't take any prisoners, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the player. 

What I love about the game the most are its visuals. There is something incredibly striking about its minimalist art style and the way it can instantly transform the atmosphere by tweaking the shadows here and there, for example. 

The visual variety among the different phases is wonderful. You might be navigating a giant clock one minute and escaping falling enemies the next. Every obstacle to overcome stands out and the way forward is clearly highlighted. 

To the credit of the game's developer, Trey Smith, the game still stands up today. The visual style stands out against a lot of mobile games and it should continue to do so in the future. 

2015's The Line Zen, the sequel to Lines, is another great example of how a beautiful minimalist art style can make a mobile game stand out. The game's concept is incredibly simple: move a blue dot through a randomly generated maze and avoid obstacles. It sounds easier than it looks and you will die a lot.

But there is something incredibly charming about it. The art style and striking soundtrack (the fantastic "Arryo Seco" by Curtis Schweitzer) come together in a way which just works. If you don't believe me, take a look at its trailer: 


There is something soothing about it and the game feels like a narrative on life itself, that's there much more going on than meets the eye. Am I reading too much into it? Maybe. Perhaps that's the impact of its visuals on the audience, a way to hook deep into the subconscious and make you speculate a little.

Trey Smith and Buildbox did an excellent job developing this game. It is one that will stick with me for a while.  

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