DEO is a strategical platformer with a unique gloomy artistic style and haunting soundtrack that would feel right at home in a Tim Burton film. Players take on the role of DEO, an altruistic red ball with eyes who is “the sole glimpse of hope for the resurrection of life in the universe”. It is your goal to rebuild the world by safely reaching the “red” zones of the planet fragments floating around in space. To do this you must leap amongst the green grassy segments while avoiding the deadly black sections, and you must do all this while the fragment below you is rotating. To successfully complete a level, all you have to do is get to the red zone either by sticking to it or at least touching it on your way bye. Three-levels (or fragments) make up a planet piece and you must pass all 3 levels at once in order to progress to the next planet piece. You can take as much time as want to finish a level, there are no time limits.
When a level starts, the world beneath you will start rotating. Pressing and holding your finger on the screen will cause DEO to crouch and charge up. The longer you hold down, the further DEO will go when you release. It’s all about timing and planning your jumps accordingly. This is probably a good time to mention that there is no power meter/indicator to see how powerful DEO’s jump will be. Instead, you have to kind of develop a feel for him as you go, discovering how long you should charge him up before releasing your finger. Once you get the hang of it, you feel more like you’ve earned your stripes rather than relying on “instruments” to do it for you. However, during this bonding process between player and DEO, it can get pretty frustrating once you’ve died for the forth or fifth time because you over or undershot your target…AGAIN! Fortunately on some levels there is a cool element whereby the dangerous black sections with actually grown some green on them as the rotate, giving you a temporary area of respite that might just save you from a miss (or two).
“Rebuilding the world” is not just a metaphor, you actually quite literally see the world come back together as you successfully complete each planet piece. In all, the game features two full planets with a total of 30 planet pieces (15 per planet) and since each planet piece is made up of three fragments (the actual game levels) that means there are a total of 90 levels + 6 bonus levels. So there is quite a bit of gameplay here.
The game uses subtle graphical cues to alert you to your progress through the game. For instance, the main scoring system in DEO is the planets on the home screen. More specifically, depending on how well you perform on individual planet pieces determines how much vegetation grows on your planet. The fewer number of times that you die while trying to pass all three segments of a planet piece, the more plant life you’ll see on the planet. There are 5 grades of plant life which can be earned, so there is some incentive to go back and replay planet pieces to try and improve your plant life. If you die, unlike the world DEO is trying to rebuild, you are instantaneously reborn and ready to give it another go. This is a good thing, as there is little to no downtime between attempts…of which there will be many.
However, I fear that this scoring system may be a bit too abstract for some players as there is no numerical indicator of exactly how well you did on a particular planet piece. I myself struggled with this a bit at first and to be honest I also got confused as to exactly where I was (progress-wise) in the game. Unlike most platformers which have a star reward system and/or a numerical level-select screen, DEO doesn’t use a numerical indicator, and with little variation in the actual levels themselves, after a while the levels just started blending together and I had no idea how many levels I had completed or if I was doing “ok, well, or fantastic” on them. Once I figured out about the the vegetation, I had some indicator from that, but it was still a bit abstract and I’m more of a numbers guy. Currently the game has no Game Center integration (but this is being worked on) and perhaps this might help answer this question.
Generally speaking, when I think of a platformer I immediately think of bright colors and Italian plumbers. It is nice to see something darker and different on the App Store. I applaud DEO’s artistic approach, though risky given that many player will be used to a less esoteric experience. After getting over the learning curve I did find DEO to be a fun, simple goaled, unforgiving, and often challenging game, perfectly suited for whenever you have a few minutes to fill and you can knock off a level (or three). Grab a copy and see if you can save the world with just one finger.