I’ve never been particularly fond of puzzle games. Especially puzzle games involving numbers, however, after I came across a little game called Rotations made by the precocious seventeen year old Black game developer named, Devon Peak my interest was, uh, peaked and I had to check it out.
If you have been following Twinfinite lately, you know we have been diligently attempting to do a bit more minority-centric coverage for the month of February. Devon Peak, like previously stated, is a seventeen year old black game developer that I can’t help but to be enamored and envious of. At the age of seventeen I was girl-crazy and getting into various semi-illegal shenanigans, while he is making games. Most of all, I find it especially fascinating that Devon is diving head first into a medium where most of his peers will have a different skin color; not to mention the certain social pressures African Americans face from other African Americans. He may be an anomaly, or I may be disconnected from the youth, and the idea of a seventeen year old Black game designer is only fascinating to me. Either way, Rotations is a grain of an idea with a lot of potential.
Rotations is a game built on the precipice of simplicity; from the UI to the game-play everything just feels cool. Sure, a game can have fancy and/or schmancy puzzle mechanics, and some wacky aesthetics, but in all likelihood players will become fatigued, or the inevitable alienation of sectors of the market will occur; the chances of anyone playing King.com’s Candy Crush Saga in ten years is slim. Puzzle games that shun obscurity in favor of approachability have an inherent longevity. Sudoku, for instance, is the best analog I can conceivably level towards Rotations.
Rotations is played by the player clicking nine multi-colored circles. One of the circles is grayed out, while the other eight are split into two sets of matching colors. All the circles have the numbers one through four, or five through eight corresponding to a specific color. The goal is to match the numbers, and or colors, so that they have a differences of one; it sounds way more complicated than it is. But, like most things in life, there is a catch; clicking a circle does not cause the circle being clicked to rotate, it causes the like colored circles to rotate. I said it was simple, I never said it wasn’t hard. You’ll often find yourself weighing the options of rotating a circle in hopes you don’t wreck everything you had so far, which you will do often. It creates a game-play loop that is infinitely re-playable, and instantly accessible, while remaining difficult enough to be engaging, but not infuriating (well, maybe a little infuriating).
Nevertheless, rotating highlights one of the major issues with the game. Unless you memorize what numbers coincide with a specific color, you’ll find yourself hoovering over circles to get the numbers to pop-up. While this doesn’t take away from the otherwise simple mechanic, it creates busy work.
Albeit, the idea of the numbers permanently being superimposed onto the game’s otherwise sleek and minimalistic design is a catch-22. There’s a certain class to Rotations. The mellow pastel colors Devon choose to use give the game a distinctive look. Two bars run across the bottom of the game, one telling you how many rotations you have made, and the other keep track of the amount of time you have spent on the puzzle. It has a sense of craftsmanship and eye for design that is reserved for developers twice Devon’s age; even the desktop icon for the game is chic.
Rotations is a puzzle game that is simple, yet, intellectually stimulating. It has some flaws, but the innate ability of the young designer, Devon Peak, to create a puzzle game so polished astonishes me. Maybe I’m off base, and today’s youth are free to do as they please without the negative social ramifications I grew up with, nevertheless, Devon proves there are young Black talented game designers waiting for an opportunity to make you feel ill-equipped with an exceptional puzzle game they made at the age of seventeen.