It’s rare for me to get into a video game while it’s still in development. But I’d seen this indie game listed on Steam and thought, “Well, why not?”
Particulars is a very curious physics game. While there’s a backstory about a scientifically-minded girl named Allison Scott, her tragic personal history, and her interest in particle physics, you as the player take on the role of a down quark at the subatomic level. Your role is to create collisions and interactions between other subatomic particles, using your natural attraction and repulsion charge to manipulate the playing field. However, there are dangerous particles like anti-quarks and anti-neutrons that will annihilate you in a flash.
The best reason I can think of to play this game is the audiovisual delight you’ll get out of it. It’s easy to lose yourself in the mystical swirls of blue and red against a black backdrop, to see yourself as the tiny particle swimming freely in the void. Even the soundtrack is engaging, mixing in techno beats with an ethereal harmony.
Obviously, the real hook is the gameplay itself. This is normally, though, where I had some trouble. While the first few levels aren’t terrible, it is difficult to keep your head in the game while you’re dodging randomly spawning anti-quarks (trust me, you will learn to hate and fear those tiny black blobs chasing you). The worst part for me was, as ever, the timed challenges, like causing a particle pair to split in less than 20 seconds while avoiding annihilation with an anti-quark. It doesn’t help when you’ve got so many other neutrons and up quarks spawning in later levels, so that your down quark gets lost in the chaos and you might not realize you’re about to hit an antiparticle until it’s too late.
But even as difficult as the game got, I found myself drawn back to each little challenge, trying out new ways to beat the countdown clock and zip past every anti-quark with gusto. It’s frustrating in the same way that playing a level of Super Mario can be, but it’s also just as fun and pretty cool to look at, too.
Bibliography: Particulars. Developed by SeeThrough Studios. Published by Surprise Attack. Original release date: December 6, 2013.