Cipher Prime

Cipher Prime’s Intake is an intense, bass-dropping arcade experience, headlining new Humble Bundle

Cipher Prime’s Intake is an intense, bass-dropping arcade experience, headlining new Humble Bundle

When you load a game in Unity it asks you what quality you'd like to set the graphics at before you launch the game. For the longest time I always thought the standard options were “Good,” “Better,” and “Best,” or something to that effect, but when I loaded up Intake for the first time I saw “Pep Rally,” “Dance Party,” and “Sparkle Party.”

Obviously, I loaded it on “Sparkle Party,” because duh, and I took a deep breath as the opening screen loaded knowing full well that I was in for something intense.

Unfortunately, even the trailer doesn't exactly do it justice.

Overload imminent

I don't think a video game has ever made me worry my computer was going to explode before I played Intake, the latest release from criminally underrated development studio Cipher Prime.

I didn't logically think my PC was going to burst, but Intake's audio-visual assault makes you feel like the world is in hyperdrive.

Cipher Prime's releases tend to center around creating unbelievable audio-visual experiences the likes of which nobody else even approaches in the modern indie world. Perhaps the most well-known of their games was Auditorium HD, which was one of the few great games for the PlayStation Move.

Auditorium HD combined sweeping symphonic scores with a laser light show mixed with a compelling and interesting puzzle mechanic (using magnets to split and bend a particle stream) that stood as one of the best puzzle games of 2010. Intake is basically the exact opposite of Auditorium's slow-paced, subtle brilliance.

Intake doesn't have a complex conceit: there are pills falling from the sky and you have to click them before they reach the bottom of the screen. The only thing that mixes up the experience is that pills come in two colors, and maintaining your combo requires you to click them with the corresponding color.

But to describe Intake in words is to rob it of what makes it special. It's a game about the experience, not innovative or intriguing mechanics.'

Feeling awesome

The whole game is tinted with this sort of bizarre prescription drug theme. The pills you're shooting are drugs of some sort and the points you're awarded are denoted by how many miligrams of pills you shoot. In my absolute favorite moment in the game, one of the three dubstep songs suddenly stops and a man's monotone voice chimes in, sounding like the end of a commercial for Xanax.

“Side effects of Intake include: Feeling awesome. Getting a high score. And dropping the bass.”

And then the bass dropped. And I felt awesome.

It's a simple game, but in classic Cipher Prime fashion, it's not about the depth of the mechanics as much as it is the experience of playing the game. Intake is not a game that can be explained in words very well. It's all about how the thumping base and the endless bursting particle effects ratchet up the intensity until it feels like your computer is going to melt.

What I find most interesting about this game is that it's essentially worthless without decent audio. If you play this game with weak sound or if you don't have the ability to listen to music at a loud volume then there's no point to this game. You'll be bored stiff. You don't need expensive equipment, but you'll want a decent pair of headphones or speakers.

Beyond the experience of being immersed in a torrent of dubstep and slick exploding visuals there isn't much to the game. In fact, it's structured a lot like a mobile game where you slowly unlock skills which allow you to progress deeper and deeper into the game with ever more intense levels. You'll slowly discover more mechanics and unlock new items and music, but it's a small game.

For me, what was most enjoyable about Intake was seeing just how lean and small a game can be while still being exciting. It's a master class in audio-visual feedback.

Prime deals

By itself, I probably would devote an entire article to a game as small as Intake, but it's being released as part of the Cipher Prime Humble Indie Bundle Weekly deal. Their first three games are available for the pay-what-you-want rate, but pay at least $6 and you get Intake as well as their aforementioned puzzle masterwork Auditorium.

I have a couple of these games already, but I will be picking up this Humble Bundle as soon as possible just to round out my Cipher Prime collection. Intake is a great little game, and Cipher Prime is a unique, extremely talented studio that deserves to finally get some recognition. And a few dollars wouldn't hurt either if you can spare them.