Developed/Published by Sometimes You. Released on January 13, 2016. Available on PC/Mac OS X/SteamOS + Linux. Review code provided by Publisher.
In Energy Cycle, you turn a field of colored orbs into the same color. Clicking a particular orb on the field changes the color of every vertical and horizontal adjacent orb with it. There's no predetermined color that's necessary to beat a level. All that's required is changing the assortment of colored orbs to one unified selection.
There's an option to switch the color palette from the default. But it doesn't always work due to the randomized nature of what it's switched to. A more sensible implementation is allowing the player to choose three colors they want. The background of every Energy Cycle puzzle is a hypnotizing spiral that distracted me from the game rather than pull me in. The music track choice was also bizarre - nightclub style dance music and electronica style songs don't mix well with a game that demands focus from the player. When playing Puzzle mode, muting the music seemed like the best option.
Puzzle mode consists of 28 preset levels that get more difficult the further along you go. Some puzzles I had to defeat twice. There were challenging puzzles I was stuck for hours on, and after that sweet sigh of relief upon on completion - I saw I took too many clicks and the game wouldn't let me progress. It's possible to master Energy Cycle's gameplay and have no problem at all completing these levels in a few hours. The predetermined setup makes it possible for someone to film their run as a guide and allow people to cheat. But Energy Cycle addresses this problem with the other modes included.
Time Attack and Infinite Play modes are like each other, with the difference being that Infinite Play doesn't have the countdown on every puzzle that Time Attack does. Unlike Puzzle's setup, these two game modes have randomized maps. This means that some solutions may take five seconds to reach, while others might stump you. These modes reveal that Energy Cycle's concept actually requires some skill and finesse. Infinite Play helps train your mind to decipher how to beat the puzzles, while Time Attack hones those teachings in a setting where the player is under pressure.
Level Editor mode gives control to the player to make an Energy Cycle puzzle of their own. You're given a blueprint grid in which you can place orbs or remove them at any particular unit of space on the map. After putting the orbs where desired, a second phase to the map maker allows you to change their color. When you finish creating your Energy Cycle brain teaser, the editor generates a level code that you can share with your friends. It's definitely a bold choice on the developer's part to include this. They put the power in the community's hands to see if they can do a better job at making puzzles than the developers.
Energy Cycle manages to hold itself up on the concept. There were moments of frustration at some of the more challenging puzzles. But the premise of the game makes it clear that there was always a solution possible. What sets the game's strengths back is a distracting aesthetic choice. The soundtrack and background that gameplay uses made strategy difficult rather than complimenting it.
Bottom Line: Balance the colorful orbs and satisfy your OCD in as few clicks as possible.
Recommendation:For anyone who wants the feeling of playing Solitaire or Sudoku-type games in a more intense setting.