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Survival and dependence take on new meaning in Duet, an abstract minimalist game of two tethered dots navigating a perilous world of unforgiving white shapes. It’s full of contradictions — the game is both brutally hard and beautifully meditative — and will leave you tearing your hair out, but Duet offers up something special beyond its intense challenge.
Your two colored dots, or vessels as the game calls them, are equidistant points on a circle. You'll touch the left and right sides of the screen to rotate them clockwise or counter-clockwise, doing the best you can to avoid touching the white blocks. It’s an awful lot harder than it sounds. Some blocks move sideways or toward you as you approach them, while others spin about their axis or remain perfectly still. If you collide with them, you'll leave a paint stain and get thrust back to the beginning of the level, ready to try again.
Duet is mostly about trying again. It’s a test of your patience, persistence, and resolve as much as it is of your skill or reflexes. If you keep at it long enough, the game finally yields, and in this moment your feeling of triumph is palpable. But you’re likely to make the same mistakes repeatedly until you yield, because Duet makes no concessions for difficulty. If you have the stomach to battle on, it remains exquisite, as the sense of accomplishment and peace grows with each level — particularly near the end, when levels get longer and blocks start to turn invisible.
The Zen-like flow of not dying is aided by a mesmerizing backdrop, melodic and hypnotic music, and cryptic messages across the nine main chapters that tease out a story inexorably tied to the puzzling action. Beneath Duet’s simple façade lies a wealth of depth and complexity. When you’re in the moment and avoiding blocks like a master, that all melts away until you’re left with a kind of elegant perfection. This makes every spluttery death seem devastating.
The bottom line. Duet’s elegant brilliance is starkly defined against its unforgiving difficulty, and there’s a truly entrancing puzzler lurking beneath its surface.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Beautiful, hypnotic soundtrack. Tight and responsive controls. Elegant, clever design. Mesmerizing coalescence of gameplay, graphics, and sound. Cool endless mode gives you opportunities to recover from mistakes.
Brutal difficulty may break your spirit before you finish the story mode.