Energy Cycle Edge Review: (Too Much) Challenge in Three Dimensions

I’m a fan of puzzle games. I can lose myself for long periods of time in Dr. Mario, and playing competitive Tetris/Puyo Puyo with my wife on the Switch is a ton of fun. I was happy to tackle Energy Cycle Edge even without having played its prequel. Having never heard anything about it, I chose to dive in instead of researching what I was getting myself into.

Maybe that was a mistake.

Energy Cycle Edge does not waste time with tutorials. It doesn’t load your screen up with any sort of user interface. It avoids even the impression that it’s there to help you out.

In some games, this hands-off approach works. Games like Dark Souls, while about as different from this game as any can be, present an opaque world full of systems and provide you with the opportunity to learn as you go. I think this works in games like Dark Souls. I don’t think it’s as effective in a puzzle game.

To be fair,Energy Cycle Edge isn’t a complicated game. In each puzzle, you’re faced with a series of differently colored orbs arranged in lines of varying lengths. Select an orb to have it cycle through one of three different colors. The twist is that every orb in the same line as the orb you’ve selected will change colors, too. Your goal is to change every orb into the same color.

This is easier said than done, like with any decent puzzle game. The problem here is that actually doing it isn’t all that exciting.

There’s a singular-ness to your objective that most games don’t have. In this case, it doesn’t strike me as a good thing. The one task you have to do is both too simple to be much fun and too difficult to allow you to develop a rhythm. Even on the lower-difficulty puzzles, it felt more like random chance when I was able to achieve any sort of success.

As the difficulty spikes up, a dimension is added. The puzzles become multi-sided, and you’re now not just contending with orbs in lines, but lines that extend into the background on a different plane. The puzzle can be rotated to view it from all sides, and your goal remains the same: make all the colors match.

Struggling with the 2D puzzles, I can’t see me ever getting into the more difficult, 3D versions. Perhaps a tutorial or a guided mode would have eased me in and taught me the ropes, making the proceedings less frustrating. Alas, I’m left with not much to appreciate.

I’m not even sure how you would tutorialize a game like this, honestly. The controls are simple (though it’s disappointing that touch screen controls weren’t enabled for the Switch, as tapping the orbs seems like a no-brainer). The concept isn’t hard to understand. But some hand holding to help you learn strategies would have gone a long way. I can see the makings of an addictive puzzler in here, but it’s not fully formed.

It’s not an expensive game at $4.99 on the Nintendo eShop. I have to imagine this game is for someone out there. It’s certainly not me. If you’re not easily frustrated and want to give it a try, there’s a free demo available.