Alpha Particle is a top-down puzzle game by South African indie studio Function Unknown. Created through a multi-step process, a sentient particle must undergo a journey across several spaceships to become Alpha Particle. Lacking a direction and purpose, you slowly gain knowledge to know where you ought to go.
Developer: Function Unknown
Released: 28 April 2021
Available on: Steam, other platforms soon!
However, to get to your destination, you need to manipulate unfriendly particles to destroy themselves in each spaceship’s sectors, using the few abilities you have and your wits. Not to mention you don’t even know what will happen when you become Alpha!
What’s all that about particles?
To get to the station where you can become Alpha Particle, you must go through a series of levels on each ship and turn just enough switches on to unlock the launcher to the next stop. Alpha Particle is a lot more complicated than it appears. Judging just by the tutorial, there’s a lot of elements to the game you must keep in mind to not die.
The particle must not have its energy drained or get fully contaminated, or else it will blow up. Boosting, or speeding up, consumes energy. Getting in contact with dangerous entities may drain your energy if not outright kill you. There are also anomalous phenomena, which are either stationary or move in a predetermined manner. That’s only a summary of what you can learn from the tutorial!
The hostile entities you will run into all have their quirks and interactions with your particle and others. For example, Fractoids can kill Rozars. Luring Fractoids to PIT devices removes them from the level. Only after all non-anomalous entities are destroyed, can you throw the switch for the section and get closer to your last destination.
That’s multi-layered! Any catches?
Alpha Particle is a good game if you want a challenging puzzler that is heavily based on manipulation. It’s nice to see a game where you must destroy enemies without directly damaging them. However, that’s not to say it’s all wonderful. One of the problems with the game is that it’s not exactly intuitive.
The game is usually hands-off and leaves you to figure out your environment on your own. This means you can run into a boss encounter (such as the one on the first station) and end up in a curb stomp battle because you don’t know how to defeat it efficiently. While there is an entire screen explaining each entity its attributes, there aren’t any knowledge database for other things you can interact with, like tiles. In general, there’s a lot to understand and experiment with in the game, and you may end up liking it or hating it.
If you’re tired of puzzle games that are mechanically simple and want to not just only keep thinking, but also stay in the dark as you slowly grasp the extent of your mission, Alpha Particle is a great way to get started. Progressing in the game is fulfilling especially in more challenging missions, but I wouldn’t recommend it for a quick session of gaming.