Particulars: Review - Games Weekly

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Particulars: Review

It’s rare to find a game in which the narrative and gameplay are as inextricably linked as they are in Particulars. At its core, Particulars is a clever puzzle game based around particle physics, but when the narrative is laid over the top it becomes the wonderful tale of an awkward young genius named Alison who has a hard time with forming social bonds in a game that is all about the dynamics of attraction and repulsion.

Each level begins with a quote cryptically detailing Alison’s personality. These quotes come from family, friends, teachers, associates, therapists and philosophers. There are also some simply but evocatively animated cutscenes that delve less cryptically into the protagonist’s life the fact that she discovers the very arcade game which you are actively playing being a key point. There is also a sci-fi conspiracy involved that ties directly into both theme and substance.


Presented as a series of short challenge levels, Particulars puts you in control of a quark, interacting with other particles through the attraction or repulsion tied to the charge of the particle. Some levels see the player trying to avoid all particles, others using attraction and repulsion to first grab and then blast particles as negative particles to cause explosions, navigate through hazardous areas, remain unexploded for a set time period and more. The levels themselves are brief, only taking a minute or so to complete once you get the hang of them but thanks to the number of levels and the overall complexity of the puzzles Particulars still turns out to be quite a lengthy game.
[S]low, steady precise movements are rewarded over twitch reflexes
The controls are simple but definitely take some getting used to. It’s all too easy to build up momentum with the quark and fly out of control. The electrical bonds between particles are also weak, so fast or sudden movements can break them. Control in Particulars is, for the most part, all about restraint slow, steady precise movements are rewarded over twitch reflexes. The game is playable with keyboard or a controller, but due to the nature of the control scheme the keyboard is definitely a sub-par option. The fine movements required for many of the puzzles all but demand the analogue responsiveness and fine control of a thumbstick.

You don’t need a background in particle physics to appreciate Particulars, but the reverse is kind of true. Although it’s not intended as an educational game, the interactions between the particles in Particulars actually gives quite a concise explanation of how the building blocks of everything interact at a fundamental level. The menu includes a “Particlepedia” that explains basic physical laws and concepts as well as basic gameplay concepts, further heightening the game’s educational impact.

At turns frantic and meditative, Particulars is a unique experience. The puzzling is consistently rewarding and the story ties directly into the mechanics in ways you may not expect. It’s not for everyone, but if you have a head for puzzles, Australian developer SeeThrough Studios has you covered.

8/10

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