Long-time hirsute, psychedelic game writer Jeff Minter of Llamasoft has released two iOS games, and they're two of the best games in the App Store: Minotron: 2112 [link] and Minotaur Rescue [link]. His third iOS game, a Universal (iPhone and iPad) release called Deflex, is on the way, and I've been frustrating myself having fun with a pre-release he recently sent over, for the past couple of days.

Deflex is a dexterity puzzle game, of sorts. It is an iOS adaptation of a 1982 Llamasoft release for the Sinclair machines, VIC-20, and Atari 8-bits, itself inspired by an earlier, simpler Commodore PET title. Gameplay is tricky to describe, and trickier to master. Or so it seems -- I'm rather a ways from mastering it, myself.

The game takes you through level after level (52 in all) of different characters -- oxen, bulls, smileys, telephones -- arrayed about various wall configurations. You control a ball that appears at level's start, bouncing slowly back and forth along a linear path. The object of the game is to absorb the on-screen characters with your ball. It's the manner in which you get your ball over to all the characters that's the thing about this game.

At the bottom of the screen sit two buttons, one in each corner. These are your only controls. Each button drops a "bat" onto the screen at the exact position of your ball. These bats are mirrors, deflectors. The left button drops a " / " bat, while the right drops a horizontally opposed " \ " one. You can drop as many bats as you like, but I'd caution towards judicious deployment, and you'll see why.

The instant the bat is dropped, two things happen. First, the ball hits it and its course deflects 90-degrees, heading off in a direction dependent upon the direction of its path prior to impact. Second, the bat flips to the opposite type (" / " turns to " \ " and vice versa), adding a sort of mind-bending, deeper complexity to the challenge of strategically clearing the levels. And it's definitely an exercise in strategy, here -- the hurried sort. Because, in order to get the ball to each item on the screen, a clever arrangement of bats must be laid down. Too many bats can lead to chaos, and some levels reward you for lean placement. But you can't take too long about it, because time spent zipping through empty space is time where your score multiplier is dwindling. If it gets too low...your ball disintegrates.

There is some behavioral variety to the on-screen character objects. Many just sit there. Some move towards you. Some (like jiggly bananas) dart away from you. It's a bit chaotic. And the elimination of each character triggers the next note in a haunting piano melody. The whole things delivers a tangible, very bizarre game mood. Standard Minter fare, really.

The first few times I played the game I was utterly lost at sea. After a while, I began to understand what was happening. And now, I feel I have some degree of skill at the game, but I've got a ways to go before I'm at the top of the leaderboards. Well, there are no leaderboards at the moment, but they're on the way. OpenFeint and Game Center integration will be worked in before release, and there'll be 53 score tables in all.

Minter is known for putting out titles that are distinctly "different." (Have a look at Space Giraffe.) Deflex is no exception. The game gets huge points for challenge, uniqueness, and also drippy visual eye-candy. The psychedelia is, as expected, in full effect here.

We'll let you know when Deflex hits the app store. In the mean time I'll be honing my skills in an effort to rule the leaderboards. Well, here's hoping, anyway....

  • Im2Cre8iv

    Hopefully he leaves the whole "yay yay yay yay wahoo way-to-go" thing in the game. Cause THAT's not annoying...

    • Andy

      Just by watching the video I feel really positive... Those yay's and woohoo's are full of charm and good feeling. The piano is very strangely haunting and seems, to me, conveys a feeling of slow motion panic.

      This looks like a very interesting game/toy.

    • Steve

      I liked it at first. Half way through the video I expected it to start using different samples but no. Yay, yay, yay, woo. All, the, way, through. I hope the developer plans to change the samples throughout the game (every ten levels or something). Otherwise I would have play it with the sound off.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1091135755 Steve Charles Morton

        There is a sound option in the pause menu to turn the Yays down or even off. 😉

  • lukwtwz

    Even my scores posted shortly after launch turn our to be much lower than yours, I will not cry "bloody favoritism"

  • lukwtwz

    no more comments to be typed from the ipod - I really botched it.

  • Lloyd Stang

    yea this game looks annoying

  • Macaroon

    Minotaur Rescue was and is ace. His 2nd iOS (foget the name) was ok, but I didn`t ever really warm to it. I`ll definitely be getting this one as it looks suitably nuts...

  • http://twitter.com/coolpowers Simon Windmill

    Ohhhh, what a magical place!
    And I owe it all to the Pegasus Race
    If I knew the ground had so much up its sleeve
    I'd have come here sooner, and never leave!
    Yes, I loooove everythiiiiiiiiiing!


    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      I salute you.

  • Nyarla

    I really like the steady stream of gentle 'yay's.. combined with the piano it's really relaxing and hypnotic. The whole thing makes my brain feel pleasant and positive. Good vibes! Reminiscent of Electroplankton on the DS

  • Anonymous

    Huge fan of Jeff's, but admittedly that was surely a what just happened moment.

    • http://twitter.com/scottish_usa Alexander R

      deflex was one of his early titles, shouldn't be anything surprising here for a fan

  • http://twitter.com/scottish_usa Alexander R

    This game was originally seen way back in the Vic20 days if I remember right, I like the use of the piano... seems like a great game to chill out with.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      I should've mentioned that in the write-up...

  • SpaceGiraffeWasNotThatGood

    jeff minter has been remaking the same game for the last 25 years. can he do something that isn't "points multipliers, rainbow LSD visuals, lol wacky" instead, just once?


    • Andy

      The same could be said for EA or any of the major publishers. But you my friend are an arse!

      • Anonymous

        I can think of many insults people have launched at EA, but no one faults them for making the same game over again.

    • Anonymous

      I'd rather see something influenced by LSD for 25 years straight than just money and greed (too many developers try to make a quick buck)!

      Not enough things these days are influenced by acid. There have been so many good movies (Close Encounters! 2001!), so many good albums (late Beatles, Pink Floyd, Richard Devine, AFX), and definitely not enough games :).

    • Happy W

      "Vinyards have been remaking the same idea for the past 25+ years. Can't they produce something that isn't 'Oh, drink this, lol, it makes your brain funny,' just once? Zzzzzz."

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1091135755 Steve Charles Morton

      What would you like him to do then? A text adventure? A golf game? His primary skill is in shoot em ups. He likes vivid, colourful games that stretch the senses, both visually and audibly. If you don't like his games, don't buy them. I don't like fooball games, so I don't buy them. However, I see no point in posting on a Fifa review and saying that they're all the same game and why can't they be different.

  • http://twitter.com/Shamko Max Shamko

    kids gonna love this

  • Anonymous

    The guy knows from gameplay though.  For the past couple of months, my "go to" game on the platform has been "minotaur rescue" .  Simple, highly playable, non puzzley little arcade romp.  With the psychedelia laid on thick, and odd sound effects up the yingyang.  Playability seems to be his thing, and I am most definitely going to get this (unless it's like 10 bucks)

  • Kosmik Klaus

    Can't wait to get this, hope it will come out very soon!

  • Steve

    I'm still waiting for an iOS release of Tempest 2000 (or even a Tempest 3000 -- I never tried that one since I never owned an NUON). Tempest 2K is one of my all-time favourite games.

    • Kosmik Klaus

      Yes, we neeeeed Tempest 2000 and Matrix/Gridrunner on iOS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Whiteball

    Yak's games have always had different controls, different gameplay and different reception from people, but he carries on regardless.

    More power to Yak I say as it is the likes of he (and Giles too) who keep originality and diversity in the games world today. Yes, people will say he is just remaking XYZ, but it always an evolved version bringing much new to the table, never just a pure remake.

    Most Genres today repeat the same formula with newer spangly graphics and not much else added (apart from a new number at the end of the title).

  • Piratematt

    Absolutely dreadful

  • Docherty Mark

    I stopped reading after '2 of the best games on the App Store'. Deluded journalism.

    • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

      I firmly stand by my assessment that Minter's previous two iOS titles are two over the very best games in the App Store. I've heard plenty who agree with that assessment, as well. You're missing out, guy.

      • Skip

        Did Minotron ever get a review on Toucharcade as suggested in the preview of the game? 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1091135755 Steve Charles Morton

        Nope. They were going to a games show and said they'd write it when they came back, but that was months ago.  😉

  • Ruby Murray

    Can't wait for this. Have played Minotron to death and it is such an easy and enjoyable pick up and play game. Jeff just tweeted that he hopes this will be up in the store in the next week and you can control the level of yay's; not that they bothered me. Will definitely be picking this up.

  • Anonymous

    They give this game to people who are suicidal.

  • http://twitter.com/uaq uaq

    put it on my wishlist, waited a week. Got it, played one level, deleted it. Presentation is awful!