Eliss was one of the original big games to hit the iPhone, but it might be one you’ve never played. Way back in March of 2009, before even Angry Birds, Eliss was one of the first games out there proving that touchscreens were an exciting new input method and a brand new platform for innovation in games. Developer Stephen Thirion has now released Eliss Infinity, an update to the classic that should excite fans of the original and reintroduce itself to a new legion of players.
The first thing you’ll notice about Eliss Infinity is its clear intention to eliminate all hand-holding—even in the user interface. There are no “new game” or “leaderboard” buttons, just a series of abstract squares that will at some point lead you to the start of a game. While I appreciate the focus on exploration, I can definitely see how players might view this abstraction as unnecessarily off-putting.
The good news is that Eliss Infinity’s emphasis on discovery bleeds into the rest of the game as well. The primary game mode, which comes from the original Eliss, now functions as a kind of tutorial, putting players through a series of “Sectors” that teach the different skills needed in order to have a chance at enduring the titular “Infinity” mode. The game masterfully eases through the progression of challenge and diversification through these stages, which slowly introduce the uncomfortable idea that you are going to need to start using two fingers simultaneously in order to proceed further.
Playing Eliss Infinity feels like juggling. While you’ve got one ball in the air, you need to be thinking about the one you are catching, as well as the new ball that is about to get thrown into the routine. In Eliss Infinity, you’re tasked with the mission of combining planets of the same colors that pop up and “scoring” them in same-colored portals, all while keeping them from touching other planets of different colors. It’s a simple idea, but things get hairy really fast—especially in the high score Infinity mode. The Infinity mode really is the big new thing here, and the classic Eliss gameplay absolutely shines in this new mode. Not since Super Hexagon will you remember having so much fun while being so utterly stressed out.
The art style in Eliss Infinity keeps the same nostalgic feel that Eliss had, recalling the classic arcade style line art of games like Asteroids or the original Star Wars. Eliss Infinity fully commits to this style: the stars in the background are little pluses and Xs, and even the text in the game is pixelated. In fact, the entire user interface plays the part of an arcade cabinet without getting overly skeuomorphic. This game might not look as flashy or impressive as newer games in the App Store, but it’s got a timeless consistency that still holds up.
Eliss Infinity is a reminder both of how far mobile games have come and of how much untapped potential there still is. While Eliss Infinity doesn’t completely revamp the original, the Infinite mode alone makes it worth the price of admission. If you’re a bit newer to the mobile game scene and haven’t played the original, you’re in for a treat.
Luke Larsen is the tech editor at Paste Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at @lalarsen11.