‘Particulars’ Review

Platforms PC (Steam)
Developer SeeThrough Studios   Publisher Surprise Attack
Genre Puzzle/Arcade

In an age dominated by role-playing games, shooters, or open-world titles in which players engage in real-life activities or – most often – supernatural ones, you don’t see many video games focusing on more intellectual matters like the world of subatomic particles. Particulars is here to fix that, although a somewhat uninteresting story coupled with a missing link between it and the core gameplay keeps said title from achieving the desired fusion.

Particulars starts with protagonist Alison – a young physicist away from home and buried in her studies – getting access to a storage locker via an anonymous source. In said locker, Allie finds an arcade-like machine, which sets the stage for the entire game. Particulars is set in the mysterious world of subatomic particles, in which players take on the role of one such particle; a quark, to be more precise. What’s unique about this title is the fact that finishing each level offers you another look into Alison’s troubled past – be it from her dad’s, ex-boyfriend’s, teachers’, friends’ etc. perspective – in addition to revealing quotes from Einstein or Rosenvelt which somehow tie into our protagonist’s story. In short, Particulars blends arcade and puzzle gameplay while focusing on Alison’s life.

SeeThrough Studios’ latest is all about interaction. Some particles are harmful and will instantly annihilate you, while others help you pass the game’s levels. Interacting with them – i.e. some will push you away, while others will pull you to your doom – is key to solving each puzzle and finding out more about Allie. Particulars offers gamers the chance of exploring the four fundamentals forces of the universe in puzzles which aren’t too difficult due to the smart inclusion of the aforementioned arcade gameplay.

The game offers players several objectives across its “campaign” – i.e. surviving a specific amount of seconds, collecting other particles, preventing some from ever colliding or even causing total chaos – while also compensating them with new features like barriers, black holes, creating different kinds of particles – not to talk about the necessity of precision and timing. It takes a while, but the gameplay can get quite complex, without being overly difficult.

What’s particularly (see what I did there?) annoying is the fact that all pieces of information provided for finishing Particulars’ levels aren’t in a chronological order, making for a somewhat confusing plot. Some further flesh out Alison’s past, while others are kind of irrelevant. Additionally, players can skip every level, if stuck. This option comes in the form of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if you’re simply interested in Allie’s story, you could very well skip the entire gameplay. On the other hand, skipping levels nullifies the definition of a video game. Another problem which Particulars suffers from is the lack of any real reward for solving its puzzles. As I mentioned above, sometimes, completing a level gets you a random quote from a famous person or a random event from Alison’s life.

In-between sets of levels, Particulars delves deeper into Alison’s life via comic-book-like cut-scenes. The story tries its best to captivate the player by talking about Allie’s family being torn apart and all the problems she’s been having at work or with her friends; it even throws in the usual government conspiracy – at least I assume that’s the government, since Particulars doesn’t fully explain itself – although I wasn’t quite convinced about it.

My biggest gripe with Particulars is the huge discrepancy between its story and gameplay. What does guiding particles from one place to another have anything to do with a girl’s troubled past? Why should I interact and create chaos just to find out more about Allie? It seems the developer wanted to create a puzzle game with an intriguing story, although the former gets boring after an hour or so, while the latter doesn’t get interesting at all. For some, Particulars might even look like a game in which you guide some balls from one place to another. It’s much deeper than that – obviously – but the game doesn’t emphasise it enough.

The Good

  • Complex but fair puzzles
  • The ability of skipping levels

The Bad

  • Lacklustre story
  • Discrepancy between gameplay and story
  • The ability of skipping levels

The Score 6