Developer: Kumobius
Price: $2.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0.2
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

Boy am I glad that Super Hexagon exists, because the games that have followed in its footsteps have (mostly) been some real winners. Minimalist takes on gameplay and visuals built around tough-but-fair challenge is a winning formula in my book. From Impossible Road to Pivvot and now to Duet from Kumobius.

Duet-10Duet immediately invites comparisons to Pivvot in that both games are about balls swiveling around a point, but it’s one that falls apart on further inspection for two reasons. One, Kumobius claims to have prototyped this idea in 2012 plus I have my doubts that it would be possible to put together this game in the 2+ months since Pivvot was made public. Second, it’s a very different game. Duet has two balls swiveling around a center point, both traveling perpetually upward. Tapping on one side of the screen rotates in that direction, with the goal being to avoid the white blocks that scroll downward.

Part of the learning curve for Duet is pattern recognition: how can the player learn to avoid certain recurring challenges? Sometimes it requires faith in continuous rotation, sometimes it requires quick changes, sometimes it requires rotating in pace with a rotating object so as to not hit – and in any mixture of those skills so as to challenge the player. That the game uses such basic mechanics, it feels challenging, without ever being too frustrating.

The campaign does a great job of getting the player to nail down the basic mechanics. The endless mode unlocks early on, but I recommend going through more of the campaign to learn more. My scores definitely improved the more I played the campaign.

Duet-9Of course, the endless mode is also ingenious for the way that it’s also about learning. Players get three lives that refill as they keep playing. Every time the player hits an object (with a splatter of paint where the ball impacted the object) they restart at the beginning of the segment they’re on, with the score reset to what it is at the start of that segment. This setup allows endless to not just be about luck, but about the learning and recognition that the rest of the game is about.

Endless isn’t the only replay source: levels in the campaign have an additional challenge for completing them in a minimum number of ‘moves’, calculated by touches of the screen. Duet cleverly doesn’t actually point this out as a feature going through a level for the first time, allowing the light narrative and the satisfaction of progression to shine through. It’s a wonderfully balanced approach.

This is all appropriate for a game that’s about negotiating two evenly-spaced objects through odd landscapes. Duet‘s success is much like its very concept: a clever and balanced one. For fans of challenging minimalist survival games, and particularly Pivvot fans who want something more but different (in much the same way that Kumobius delivered their own take on Tiny Wings with Time Surfer), Duet is a must-have.


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