I feel bad calling Pulse a rhythm game, because it doesn’t feel like one. In fact, it doesn’t really even feel like a game. It’s more of a therapeutic experience. Rhythm games are traditionally fast-paced and high-energy. Cipher Prime has decided to reverse this formula, creating a calming rhythm game featuring some phenomenal ambient music. What results from this is a unique game that sets itself apart from what we’ve come to expect from rhythm games.
Cipher Prime is a game studio based in Philadelphia. They’ve just released their game Pulse for Android systems in the latest batch of games from the good folks at Humble Bundle, Humble Bundle with Android 6. They first rose to fame with a game entitled Auditorium in 2008, a flash puzzle game that was later ported to iOS and Sony devices. They’ve also released Fractal in 2010, a puzzle game also included in the latest Humble Bundle, and Splice in 2012. Recently, Cipher Prime funded a sequel for Auditorium through Kickstarter, raising $60,000 for the development process.
Each level contains a short song that you must keep in rhythm with by tapping small dots that appear on the screen. These dots appear on ellipses that match the beats of a measure in a song. In the center of the screen, there’s another circle that constantly grows and lines up with these ellipses, at which point you tap the dot. Needless to say, there’s a lot of circles. The first level is a short tutorial that wouldn’t really qualify as one, since you’re never told how the game is played. Pulse has a constant minimalistic feel that becomes evident in levels like this.
The music, developed in-house save for a few songs, sets apart Pulse from its competition. The collection is full of mellow ambient tracks that have just enough rhythm and complexity to make the game challenging. The most difficult part of developing any game is bringing it all together, and the music for Pulse is the glue.
I noticed the songs vary quite a lot in difficulty. The first batch is pretty simple, introducing syncopated taps at an easy-to-learn pace. However, the second batch included ‘Sakura’, a song that requires simultaneously tapping dots to get a perfect score on. It was definitely the hardest song in the first few parts of the game, and playing the game on a small screen didn’t help either. Tablets are highly recommended for Pulse.
If you do enjoy it, there are 26 songs to play through in the game, spread out pretty evenly in difficulty. There are some fantastic artists on board: Jim Guthrie (composer of the Sword & Sorcery EP soundtrack as well as songs for Indie Game: The Movie), Igor’s Egg, and Leemus Music . There are a few other guest artists getting some recognition with their music in the game.
Cipher Prime is a game studio to keep on your radar. They’re bringing a lot of interesting stuff not just to the rhythm genre but gaming as a whole, and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon. Go pick up Pulse (and some other awesome indie games) in the latest Humble Bundle, available until early July. Be sure to follow @CipherPrime on Twitter to keep up to date with their games! Lastly, if you’re an indie developer in the Philadelphia area, check out Cipher Prime’s Dev Nights, where local devs can come and chat and work with others around town!