There was a point during my time with Alpha Particle in which I got stuck at a seemingly impossible level. I tried everything, using the vague knowledge the game had taught me. And yet, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t escape. I didn’t know why I was there, how to leave or even how to win. I was trapped in an eternal pit of damnation, destined to die time after time with little recourse on how to survive. It was a bleak future, but one I enjoyed regardless. The more I play Alpha Particle, the more I grow to accept that its blend of confusing yet startlingly passionate gameplay makes for one of the most creative games I’ve played to date.
“The rigorous attempts at succeeding in something, only to be bested by forces out of your control is the exact experience I persevered through while playing Alpha Particle.”
The temptation to reference Sisyphus feels all too easy. The rigorous attempts at succeeding in something, only to be bested by forces out of your control and forced to endure those same hardships again, is the exact experience I persevered through while playing Alpha Particle. Unfortunately, I’ve used the Sisyphus analogy before to describe a different and far more laborious game. Instead, I will use the rather disturbing example of Tantalus.
The English word tantalising comes from the myth of Tantalus. It is about a man named Tantalus, who offers his son as a sacrifice to the gods. As punishment, he is sentenced to stand in a pool of water. Above him is low hanging fruit dangling from branches, and below him the crystal clear water. Should he try and reach for the tempting fruit, the branches would raise. And should he try and drink from the pool, the water would recede. Regardless of his efforts, that which is tantalising would be forever out of his grasp.
“For every puzzle that I understood, there were two more that I barely managed to scrape my way through.”
This analogy is my roundabout way of saying that Alpha Particle is simultaneously tantalising in its creativity, and yet just too far from my reach that it never lived up to its full potential. With each level that I completed, I was left awestruck by its abundance of passion. Unfortunately, I was frequently left a little frustrated, wishing for something more. I believe this frustration is born out of confusion. Alpha Particle is filled to the brim with lore, complex puzzle design and an unexplained narrative. For every puzzle that I understood, there were two more that I barely managed to scrape my way through.
There are tomes of information regarding the various particles you’ll encounter, but I found little to no direction regarding the narrative. There is a tutorial, but it is unnecessarily burdensome, throwing mechanic after mechanic at you and expecting you’ll somehow absorb it all. But within all this madness is a puzzle game that has an inordinate amount of potential. Like with Tantalus, Alpha Particle offers me a mouth-watering piece of fruit. But all too often, just as I wrap my fingers around its juicy pulp, it pulls away, leaving me dejected and despondent.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC, code was provided by the developer.