Dirac ($1.99) by Mediocre AB is a new connect-the-dots puzzle game that is fast and frantic. If you loved games like TwoDots but want something more challenging and arcade-like, then you’ll want to give Dirac a try.
Ever since Mediocre released hits like Smash Hit and Does Not Commute, I’ve been in love with their work. I spent a lot of time on Smash Hit when it was first released because it was a unique take on the endless runner style gameplay, and Does Not Commute was challenging and full of humorous personas. So naturally, when the news of a new game from them hit my inbox, I was ecstatic. And as a big fan of arcade and puzzle games, I knew Dirac was going to be a hit with me, and probably many others.
Visually, Dirac is beautiful, which is what you’d expect from the studio. I love the stylized CRT-like monitor screen that the game takes place in, as it is an example of some tastefully done skeuomorphism. While the game has a fairly dark background mixed with shades of blue and green, the molecule centered on the screen has a nice glow surrounding it, making it easy to spot. The atoms that are emitted from the molecule, which is appropriately named DIRAC, are tiny but easy to spot due to the bright, neon blue and red coloring. The lines you draw that connect the atoms to each other match the color that you’re connecting, but have their own set of nice animations while connected, or even fizzle out when they get interrupted by an opposite-colored atom or touch the DIRAC itself. The overall animations in the game are smooth and fluid, and there is a soothing, atmospheric soundtrack that is pleasant to listen to. The sound effects are also fun to hear as you play. In terms of design and audio, I believe Mediocre has hit another one out of the park.
In Dirac, players are given the role of an intern at a laboratory, which allows them to work with the DIRAC, the latest in computerized quantum disentanglement technology. Didn’t get a word of that last part? Don’t worry, it’s not that important to enjoy the game. With this intern position though, you have unlimited and unsupervised access to the DIRAC terminal, and your job is to manually disentangle and sort through the macroscopic existence of the microverse. Yes, I know — the terminology is so scientific it sounds like gibberish, but hey, they needed some background for it, right?
There are five different game modes in Dirac: Novicium, Medianium, Extremium, Beyondium, and Absurdium. While all of these modes are made to sound complicated and intelligent, they boil down to Beginner, Normal, Hard, Insane, and Absurd (or something along those lines). It’s pretty straightforward if you think about it. But before you jump into any of those difficulty levels, there is also the Tutorium, which introduces the basic game mechanics to you. I recommend trying that out first so you know how the game works.
Essentially, the molecule in the middle will be emitting particles of light that are colored blue and red. Your job is to “disentangle” them, which involves connecting the like-colored particles together by drawing a line between as many as you can to create a chain. If you can create a full loop for that chain, meaning the last connection is the one you started out with, then you convert all other particles inside that enclosed space to the color you’re connecting, and it nets you more points. There are also glowing molecules that float around, and if you can close a space with that inside, then your score multiplier increases.
However, while that sounds easy, things get difficult since the molecule will begin to emit more particles than you can keep track of, and if the connection touches an opposite-colored particle or the center molecule, then it will fizzle out and you lose those particles you were connecting. This leads to wasted time and less particles to connect for big points, and it also means the DIRAC molecule is depleted faster. Particles emit a sound when they near the edges of the screen, and if they escape, then you are penalized for it. Once the entire molecule is depleted and you don’t make enough connections to fill the gauges at the top of the screen for more molecules, then the game ends. Your score is determined by how many particles you connected, as well as the score multiplier you ended up with. At the end of a game, you also see how long you survived, how many boosts you made, how many points you got from your best move, and the highest multiplier you achieved. As I mentioned, things start out easy enough, but the particles get harder to track as more show up.
I’ve only spent a little time with Dirac so far this week, but I’m loving every second of it so far. The game itself is just beautiful, the music and sounds are delightful, and the controls are intuitive. When you add challenging gameplay and plenty of difficulty levels to satisfy everyone’s skill level, then there’s a winner. I’m a big fan of Mediocre’s games, and hope to see more premium releases like this from them in the future.
I recommend Dirac to anyone who enjoys challenging arcade-style puzzle games. You can find Dirac on the App Store as a universal download for the iPhone and iPad for just $1.99. There are no in-app purchases.