Art Style: Rotozoa Hands-On

Who knew single-celled organisms could be so much fun to play with?

Nintendo's Art Style series of games has established itself as a haven for folks who enjoy minimalist aesthetics and simple controls while maintaining a level of depth and replay ability. Two new games in the Art Style series were on hand at today's Nintendo press summit in San Francisco: the racing game Light Trax and Rotozoa. The latter is a puzzle game that had us hooked from the moment we laid hands on it.

Rotozoa bears a strong resemblance to Flow for the PC and PlayStation network. You play as a small organism floating in liquid. Depending on the mode you're playing, you have one or more tentacles, and the goal of most of the modes in the game is to make those tentacles as long as possible by collecting like-colored goobugs. These are single-cell organisms that are also floating around onscreen.

Most of the goobugs are fairly passive, and you can add them to your tentacles simply by swimming up to them to make contact. The color of a goobug matters here; for example, you can only attack red goobugs to your red tentacle, yellow goobugs to your yellow tentacle, and so on. If a tentacle is struck by a goobug of a different color, that tentacle will snap off at the point of contact, and you'll lose a life.

The game's controls are simple to learn--you hold the Wii Remote horizontally and move your organism with the D pad. You can also spin your organism clockwise or counterclockwise by pressing the 1 or 2 buttons. Pressing the button will cause your organism to spin one notch at a time; holding it down will make it to quickly spin in the appropriate direction until you let go.

As your organism grows and the goobugs pile up on screen, it becomes increasingly difficult to navigate your way around the screen trailing those long tentacles. In addition, goobugs have different tendencies--some are happy to float in peace, while others will aggressively chase you. There are some occasional pickups that can assist you--one will cause your tentacles to contract, while another will give you an extra life. Perhaps the most powerful pickup is the cyclone. Once you've picked it up, you can engage it by finding a quiet spot onscreen and holding down the spin button for a few seconds. Once you've fully charged your cyclone (hitting a goobug will interrupt the cyclone charge), letting go of the spin button will give you temporary invincibility where you can destroy any goobugs onscreen (and rack up lots of points to boot).

There are several modes in Rotozoa, and all of them provide a slightly different twist on the basic formula. In Stages mode, you'll have specific goals you'll need to reach (such as collect a certain number of tentacle add-ons) before you can move to the next stage. Snake mode limits the number of colored tentacles you can use. For example, in one game, you have just one tentacle that you can collect like-colored goobugs with; all others can be destroyed using the non-tentacle side of your organism. Endless mode lets you play for as long as you can survive with an organism that has multiple tentacles and with goobugs coming in a variety of different patterns or speeds.

Deceptive depth lies behind Rotozoa's simple graphics, as well as easy control scheme, and we look forward to this latest addition to the Art Style series. The game is due for release later this year.

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