iO is a physics-based puzzle game that rolled onto the PlayStation 4 after enjoying an existence on mobile platforms. It’s the perfect on-the-go game: guide a sphere across a minimalist course to reach a goal, transforming its shape along the way. Many of the game’s stages are designed to be completed in short times, with medals awarded for beating the clock. I’m not usually a fan of games like this on a console, mostly because they’re not what you’d want to play for hours on end. At best, it’s a light diversion meant to fill in gaming gaps. Besides, if you’re looking for something to play while on a road, train, or plane trip, why not just grab the mobile or Vita edition? Nevertheless, iO console edition exists and makes its transition with few growing pains. There are some finicky control and camera issues but for the most part, it’s a solid and interesting puzzle game. On a positive note, it was the first game I played in front of my wife, who doesn’t play many games, that made her say, “I want to play this.”
Physics fuel iO’s design. To reach the end of the level, you’ll manipulate the size of the TRON-like sphere to increase or decrease its motion. Size is further manipulated for the ball to squeak through tight tunnels, move objects, and provide a counterweight to precariously balanced platforms. Later levels introduce new and interesting obstacles, such as ports, moving platforms, and gears that add a challenging flavor to the game. Though the nature of iO is to speed through levels as fast as possible - so that you can earn those sweet, sweet gold medals - expediency comes at the expense of repeating levels until you can finish them flawlessly. On the plus side, iO doesn’t lock down its levels so if you’re having trouble with a particular puzzle, save it for later and freely move onto the next with no consequence. And boy, are there a lot to work through - over 150 in fact, and that’s not counting another set of special collections.
On the console, there are some niggling issues that seem exclusive to the console version. Specifically, it feels as if the controls and camera weren’t fully optimized. In bigger levels, I noticed that the camera only gives you a full view of the course at the start of the level before zooming in closer to your sphere. This made it difficult to track and time moving platforms. My wife and I also discovered an issue with the controls. We found that the ability to shrink and enlarge the sphere was locked the right analog stick’s most absolute up and down direction. There was a tendency to move our thumbs ever so gently to the right or left which would slow (or sometimes halt) the transformation. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when completing puzzles requires changing the shape of the ball at the right moment to achieve maximum velocity, having to repeat the level because of that made us feel impatient. Thankfully, restarting a stage takes little time, so it’s easy to speed through the level once the solution has been figured out.
iO is a fun enough diversion to play in between games, but it’d be even better to play on a phone so you’ve got something to do while waiting for a lengthy load screen to complete or the next Overwatch match to begin. As such, the Vita version may be the better option of the two. It is fun but not particularly memorable, to be completely honest. As per usual for most mobile-to-console games of iO’s ilk, it is best enjoyed in short bursts or as a means to kill some time.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.