Developer Whitaker Trebella needn’t worry about the supposed Sophomore Curse, his second iOS game, Pivvot retains that same combination of simple charm and one-more-try gameplay that made his first title Polymer such a hit.
Pivvot tasks players with a singular goal…AVOIDANCE. As you are moving briskly along a winding path, you must rotate a ball around a fixed pivot point to avoid a variety of obstacles that get in your way. This is done by By pressing on either the left or right halves of the screen, depending on the direction in which you’d like to rotate. Thanks to all of your route’s twists and turns, your orientation is in a regular state of flux, so not only do you need quick reflexes, but must maintain enough focus to remember which side of the screen to tap to rotate in the proper direction.
Overall, there is a rather nice gradual progression to the game and the intensity builds at an easy to digest rate. Some obstacles require very little movement to avoid, while others are much more deliberate, and the toughest will require some really fast reflexes and quick alternating of directions. However, since the path is winding you can (and will) sometimes get disoriented and tap to rotate in the wrong direction, slamming into the very obstacle you were trying to avoid. This means that occasionally even some of the simplest obstacles can be tough to avoid.
Pivvot contains five distinct game modes: Voyage, Endless, Expert Voyage, Expert Endless and Berserk. Voyage and Endless are unlocked at the start, with their ‘expert’ variations unlocked by completing the “easier” counterparts. Berserk mode is playable only by those who have earned it by completing the other modes. I all modes, once you hit a single object, the game is over, but you are just a single tap away from another attempt.
Voyage mode has a way of lulling you into a false sense of security, easing you into the game’s mechanics. There are 29 levels, each of which involves successfully avoiding 6 obstacles. Alternating between what I’ll call a learning level in which the same obstacle is repeated over and over and a random mix level to reinforce your avoidance skills on all previously encountered obstacles, You eventually realize that this is just the training for the onslaught that is to come in Pivvot‘s Endless and Berserk modes.
Sure, it can feel a bit repetitive at times, but never overwhelmingly so. The winding of the path, along with some slight variations in individual types of obstacles make every play-through different from the last. Norman Vincent Peale, author of the book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” once said “Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.” and that seems to be the goal of Pivvot, especially in the Voyage levels. Obstacles that were once strange and difficult to avoid soon become a matter of reflex. The nice thing is that with both of the Voyage modes, you don’t have to keep restarting the 29-level campaigns all over again. Should you falter, you can pick up right where you left off and thanks to iCloud saves, that could even be on another device.
Endless mode takes what you learned, adds a timer and is basically made up of waves containing one of each of the obstacles that you saw in Voyage mode. The goal is to last as long as possible avoiding every obstacle that comes your way. To “pass” Endless mode and unlock the Expert version you need to survive for 100 seconds, which is essentially the time it takes to get through two complete waves.
Both Expert modes really ramp up the difficulty with harder obstacles and Berserk mode (which I haven’t unlocked yet) is apparently utter chaos. One thing is for certain, no matter what the mode, the “deaths” in Pivvot never feel cheap, you always know exactly what you did wrong and what you should have done to avoid the obstacle that got you.
Finally I cannot talk about a game from Whitaker Trebella without mentioning the music, which in a word it is…infectious. The soundtrack sets the mood of the game and at times is even a little playful, with some neat little audio cues when you die almost like a record being abruptly stopped. In fact, yesterday I found myself loading up the game on my phone while in my car just to listen to the music while driving home from work. In case you were wondering, it sounds great through my car’s audio system. Visually too, Pivvot is crisp and its minimalistic design is inviting and perfectly suited to the gameplay.
Pivvot is a game that will undoubtedly frustrate you…but in a good and rewarding arcade gaming sort of way. Whether it is finally beating a particular level on your umpteenth attempt, reaching 100 seconds to pass Endless mode or grabbing the top spot on the leaderboard, Pivvot is full of tiny well-earned victories that will keep you coming back for more.