The first time I sat down to play Qlione, I had no idea what to expect. The start menu was very minimalist like many of the artsy Playstation Network games, and the “How to Play” option consisted of a six illustrated instructional pages that didn't teach me the goal of the game. Upon diving into the game's only play mode, the first thing I thought was “This is Geometry Wars except my character is the thing from flOw.” And in essence, that is exactly what Qlione and Qlione 2, the two games included in this package, are. But this isn't a dual-joystick shooter, nor is your object to eat your enemies and become larger (except kinda sorta). The only way to destroy your foes is by creating waves in the grid/mesh background, using a combination of the explosive and vacuum bombs at your disposal. You can only place a certain number of bombs at a once, and timing is crucial to send waves in the correct direction. It may seem like a simple mechanic, but is actually quite difficult to learn and get comfortable with. The problem is that Qlione doesn't give you any kind of tutorial or helping hand, which will cause most people who pick this up without prior knowledge to give up in frustration right away, as I almost did. Thankfully, once you get past the blurry, boring visuals and unintuitive gameplay, Qlione isn't all that bad and will at least give you a few hours of entertainment.
That may not seem like the most glowing of endorsements, but compared to how I felt after my first hour with this game I may as well be giving it a medal. You actually download two separate games after purchasing Qlione Evolve, which seems odd seeing as they are nearly identical. Why they couldn't be separate modes off of a single menu, I have no idea, but because of this they have unique trophies and leaderboards. Qlione is the simpler of the two games; you are given 20 lives and thrown into an eight stage gauntlet featuring a few waves of various enemy types, followed by a bulbous green boss with a weak spot at its center. A single hit to the head of your character from an enemy or bullet means death, and the only way to get more lives is to collect orbs that drop from vanquished foes. These orbs can be combined with the same space-warping powers used to attack, creating giant orbs worth many more points than the sum of their parts. These only matter to increase your lives stock, because the only way Qlione scores you is by the time taken to complete each stage. After beating a boss, the game saves, allowing you to continue from the next stage upon a game over with a full stock of 20 lives, but a large penalty added to your time.
Qlione 2 is the more interesting game of the two, thanks in no small part to its lifting of the evolutionary growth mechanic seen in flOw. Instead of having lives, you start out near the bottom of a branching growth chart. Take a hit, and you devolve down into a simpler form. Take another, and it's game over. In order to evolve, you must eat one of the red or green orbs dropped by enemies, the color deciding which path you take. What makes this great is that every single form has a unique way of attacking. One branch simply has bigger bombs, while another has cluster bombs, and some are even able to manipulate the grid without bombs at all. Some of the paths are only accessible if you first devolve from the standard form, making for a dangerous game of keep-away until you are able to power up. There are still eight stages as in Qlione 1, and most of the enemies are tougher, but being able to decide on which form is best in a given situation makes for some interesting strategy that the first game is sorely lacking. It also makes the game a bit easier and way more fun, because I never wanted to go back to Qlione after playing its sequel.
The first game has three choices for background music, but both games encourage you to play your own music through the XMB for a customized experience. The game somehow manages to have PS1-era graphics, even though its blurry visuals are inspired heavily by modern, sharper-looking titles. Even with some hard-to-get trophies and online leaderboards, I just can't see why anyone would come back to this game after a few play sessions. It's a shame that you must purchase this package at $6.99, since Qlione 2 is definitely the one you want to play. At that price, it's just hard to recommend when there are so many better games on PSN for 10 bucks or less. Qlione Evolve doesn't have the interesting motion controls and beautiful graphics of flOw and Flower, nor the re-playability of a game like Shatter. If you're looking for something a little different on PSN, it at least manages to combine a bunch of different mechanics together in an intriguing way. It just ends up feeling like something that belongs on the iPhone App store for 99 cents. If you do decide to try this game, the only advice I can give is this: move toward the enemy, drop four explosives and two vacuums in a line, then move away. Rinse and repeat. You'll thank me later.