There’s a certain breed of game that just fits perfectly on your phone. Games that look beautiful, with pleasing visuals and serene sounds, that can lull you into a trance while you zone out with some headphones on. Think titles like Alto’s Adventure, Kami, or Monument Valley. Now, you can add the iOS-exclusive Frost to that list: a minimalist pleasure about controlling swarms of glittering light.
As with the best puzzle games, the core goal of Frost is pretty simple. In each level there is an orb (or a few) of a specific color, and your job is to guide a like-colored swarm inside of it. Early on, it’s fairly basic stuff. The initial swarms pleasingly follow your finger, as you swipe the screen to create paths for them. Naturally, things get more complex as you go.
Eventually you’ll encounter swarms that won’t listen to you at all, and require the nudge of a different group to push them along. Others need to be mixed together to produce the right color, and there are hazards like giant beams of light that can stop your swarm in their tracks. The swarms have an almost natural feel about them, as if they were tiny living creatures, each with their own goals and desires. Frost gradually introduces new concepts and behaviors, and by the time you hit the 20th puzzle it can get quite challenging.
One of the best things about the game is that it doesn’t explicitly tell you anything. Instead, it presents you with a new concept, and then forces you to learn how it works for yourself through experimentation. This isn’t a rigid puzzle game where there’s one right answer and a pre-determined way of doing things. It’s loose and playful. There’s a joy in discovering how things work for yourself, and I often came up with unorthodox solutions that were probably more convoluted than they needed to be. Really, the only frustrating aspect of the game is that you can’t skip particularly tough levels. So if you find yourself stuck, you just need to keep trying.
This pressure-free structure makes Frost a great game to zone out to. Its presentation doesn’t hurt either. For the most part the visuals are stripped down and plain, but the star of the show — the swarms — are bursting with life and color. Watching them twist and mingle, glittering colors swirling around, is almost as satisfying as solving the puzzles. The sparse, solemn piano in the background rounds out the relaxing vibe.
If you want to check it out for yourself, Frost is available now on iPhone and iPad.