Designing a minimalist game is a lot like wearing a Speedo: you’d better be confident in what you’re showing off. If Pivvot is any indicator, then designer Whitaker Trebella has confidence to spare.
This arcade game is as simple as you can get. You control a colored dot following a long, winding line. The dot isn’t attached directly to the line, but swings back and forth on a short bar. You move the dot to avoid obstacles that appear around the line. You win if you reach the end of the line; you lose if you hit an obstacle.
If you controlled the dot directly with your finger, the game would be simple and dull. Trebella has taken a more traditional approach that adds a lot of challenge. The screen is divided into two halves; you touch the right half to swing your dot one way and the left half to swing the other way.
These controls are still simple, but the line curls around all over the screen, and it’s hard to remember which way is right and which way is left. If you have good timing and can keep your position straight, you’ll do well at this game. If not, you’re going to smash into a lot of obstacles.
Hitting the same obstacles over and over again can be frustrating, but the level design is forgiving and failure won’t set you back very far. Pivvot teaches you how to play with its “Voyage” mode, which is a long series of short levels. You only have to pass six obstacles to save your progress and move on, so you can beat this mode one level at a time.
(The Endless mode is more difficult, since you have to avoid obstacles for a hundred seconds to win. If that’s not enough of a challenge, the Extreme Voyage, Extreme Endless, and Berserk modes will keep you busy for quite a while.)
The short levels also make it easy to master new sets of maneuvers. Each new obstacle gets its own level, which means you practice avoiding that obstacle over and over again until you can dodge it six times in a row. The process may try some players’ patience, but it’s an effective form of training. The practice pays off in the other levels, when you encounter a string of six different obstacles and can react quickly and correctly to them.
The path is procedurally generated each time you start a level, so there’s some variety even if you’re playing the same part over and over again. The game is also attractive, with a sharp geometric look and lively background music. The combination of look, sound, repetition and variety makes it easy to sink into a state of flow and lose track of time as you play.
Pivvot won’t appeal to everyone. It’s a pure arcade experience with abstract graphics, a lot of moves to memorize, and not even a hint of story. If that’s the kind of experience you’re looking for, though, then Pivvot is one of those games where you’ll spend hours giving it “just one more try.”