Sequence ReviewPublisher: Iridium Studios
, Xbox 360
UK Price (as reviewed): £3.99 (inc VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $6.99 (ex tax)
There's a reason I write about games for a living and, believe it or not, it's not just because I found someone stupid enough to pay me to do so. It's because this bizarre career occasionally affords me the chance to feel something strange and wonderful and which I've rarely found elsewhere.
You know the feeling too, I hope. It's the one where you're all sunshine and smiles, where you're on top of the world and know you can still climb higher. 'Happy'
is probably the word for it, I guess - but it's really That Feeling As You Lean In For A First Kiss.
It's a feeling I've not had in a long while. It's a feeling I get from Sequence.
Sequence is a game. In it you play a boy called Ky, who wakes up in a strange place and has to fight his way out with magic. Along the way he levels up, crafts items and, every now and then, battles a boss. Ky doesn't know where he is or why he's there - finding that out is as much the aim of the game as escaping. None of this is really very important, however - not when put next to That Feeling.
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The Feeling comes from the music, which is also the spell-casting system. The quickest way to describe it would be to say that it works like Dance Dance Revolution, with arrows falling down the screen and you having to hit the direction they represent just before they disappear. The difference, though, is that there are effectively three games of DDR going on at once, each in a separate window and each with a different function; one recoups mana, a second blocks attacks and a third casts spells. Switching between the windows is handled with the Q and E keys.
The result is an abstracted timing puzzle with a disco beat, where half the action is always in the periphery and your attention is always divided - facilitating your descent into a trance state. Breathing slows, eyes narrow and your brain shuts out everything but the success and failure of hitting the right buttons. Right-right-down-Q-down-left-E-down!
Play Sequence well and you'll fall into Zen bliss, forgetting all your problems and applauding yourself after every victory. Fumble and you'll swear in grunts, hating yourself until you get it right. Perseverance is hard, but worthwhile.
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Just as DDR is a mechanical analogue to Sequence, Frozen Synapse
is a tonal touchstone - except here all the tension and pressure of a match is compressed into a single, brilliant minute. As your ability rises to meet Sequence's challenges you'll increase the difficulty in order to prolong that feeling, like an addict upping the dosage.
Like any game, Sequence has problems and people who don't like it (Harry and Clive, to name two) - but to spend any time weighing or discussing those few, tiny flaws would be to reduce the gestalt to its individual components. I don't want to do that; I don't want to overlook the fact that Sequence is one of only four or five games I've ever played that lives up to its potential so absolutely and with so little room for improvement. Nor do I want to shrink back from giving the highest score our publication can possibly give - if I'm going to talk about using the entire 1-100 score scale, I have to use both extremes.
So, 99 per cent is a score for cowards, for those who want to obscure matters with discussion about hypothetical perfection in a medium defined by subjectivity. There are no perfect games suitable for all audiences; but there are those worth 100 per cent.