Outside of playing the phone version of Halo: Spartan Assault and grabbing an exclusive first look at N.O.V.A. 3, we had a tough time finding Windows Phone games and news at E3 this year. Blame Microsoft’s focus on the Xbox One and the console folks’ general disinterest in promoting Windows Phone or Windows 8 for that. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t turn over every stone in our search for more phone goodness…
As it happens, just after the Microsoft Media Briefing, Sam and I met up with an indie Windows Phone developer from China named Hua “Rex” Chen. Rex showed off his new puzzle platformer for Windows Phone 7 and 8 called Eyez. We snagged some hands-on footage and an interview over lunch, and then headed off to the EA Press Conference minutes later. Eyez has just launched - more details and our exclusive video after the break!
Behind the eyez
The story behind Eyez is almost as interesting as the game itself. You can hear all about it in the video, but I’ll provide a quick rundown here. Basically, Rex was a student at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. To complete his Master of Fine Arts, Rex developed Eyez as a Windows Phone 7 title. He chose Windows Phone 7 because of the ease of working with XNA and his excitement for Microsoft’s mobile platform.
The game has gone through several iterations since its inception in 2009. At one point it would have been an overhead view game instead of a platformer. But the core mechanic has always involved playing with the boundaries of the screen in unique ways. The end result is a puzzle platformer with a few similarities to Portal, which shouldn’t come as a huge surprise since Portal’s designer Kim Swift served as one of Rex’s thesis advisers at school.
Activating Blue Eye Mode allows Mint to get past walls by walking through the edges of the screen.
Eyez features some lovely hand-drawn artwork and colorful backgrounds with multiple layers of parallax. Visually, it recalls the 16-bit Valis games and perhaps some Amiga platformers. The protagonist Mint would really benefit from more frames of animation, but otherwise the game really stands out with its distinctly Asian character designs.
Mint finds herself trapped in a strange and dying world. To uncover what has happened to her and make her escape, she’ll need to take advantage of her new color-based powers. In the first of two worlds she’ll learn to use the “Blue Eye” ability, activated by double tapping the screen. This freezes the scrolling of the screen and makes it so that when Mint exits one side of the screen, she’ll come out the other side. Think Pac-Man’s tunnels or the portals from Portal.
Red Eye mode lets Mint wall jump, among other things.
Complete the first Chapter’s 10 levels to reach the second Chapter and gain the Red Eye ability. This allows Mint to walk along the boundaries of the screen, even without a platform to stand on. She can also wall jump off of the temporary borders Red Eye creates. Players will need both abilities to progress through Chapter 2’s 12 stages. Just swipe down to toggle between Red and Blue Eyes. The controls work great for the most part, though I’d greatly prefer a virtual jump button to the current, slower method of jumping: swiping up.
Open your eyez
Eyez is a relatively short game at launch, but the developer promises to add a new chapter through a free update in the future. Each level has several hidden teardrops to find, adding some replay value. You’ll have to get all the drops to earn a three-star rating. Players who enjoy platformers, puzzles, or just want to play something different should give Eyez a look. And it does have a free trial!
Eyez – Windows Phone 7 or 8 – 32 MB - $1.99 – Store Link
Update: Here is one more video to show how the game works.