Mr. Particle Man: Doing the Things That a Particle Can
Mr. Particle-Man is a very difficult game. It may not seem like it at first, as the opening levels are relatively toothless. These stages give you a chance to learn the unique controls of the character before things get tough. By the time you reach the halfway point of the game’s 100 stages, you’ll be piling up the losses in incredible numbers on each and every board. Yet something about the game drives you to keep trying no matter how frustrating it gets. It always seems possible, if you could just get this or that right, or get past this one point. So you keep trying, and keep dying, and eventually make a little progress.
Stages in Mr. Particle-Man are single-screen affairs and involve you moving your character around a maze layout from a top-down perspective. There are energy particles placed around each stage that you can pick up for extra points, and a bonus timer counts down as time passes. Your primary goal is to reach the stage exit, and the more points you score, the better. The faster you finish, the more points you’ll earn from the time bonus. Sometimes there are doors that you’ll need to unlock by picking up keys, and every so often you’ll have to fight a boss.
You’ll come across a wide variety of gimmicks in the stages, including but not limited to fans that blow you off course, accelerator strips that zoom you in one direction or another, the aforementioned locked doors and keys, and static fields that take away your control of Mr. Particle-Man while he’s inside of them. There are also a lot of things that will kill you. Wall surfaces that will zap you to a crisp, beam cannons that fire deadly shots, energy barriers, and sparks that will relentlessly pursue you. Even standing still is a threat, as if the hero goes too long without any player input, he’ll explode. As hard as the game is it ramps up its difficulty delicately, and sometimes throws a fun course into the middle of some particularly nasty ones as a bit of relief.
A lot of the challenge comes in the way Mr. Particle-Man controls. He’s very light and floaty, feeling relatively frictionless at times. You move him around by sliding your finger in the desired direction. If you move slightly and slowly, you can easily move our hero around accurately. He picks up speed very quickly, though, so if you move your finger too far too fast, he’ll take off like a rocket. If he hits a non-dangerous surface with any kind of inertia, he’ll bounce off of it. Once you’ve unlocked the charge ability, you can activate it by pressing and holding on the screen until Mr. Particle-Man flashes. This move is necessary for breaking some types of walls and attacking certain bosses, but the speedy dash it results in can also be nigh-required to pass some obstacles in later stages.
Though the game takes some obvious inspiration from Namco’s Pac-Man, the sheer number of stages and the way they combine simple gimmicks to create devilish obstacle courses is highly reminiscent of classic Taito offerings like Bubble Bobble. There’s a rather obvious homage to that game early on through one of the level designs, and you can really feel its influence throughout the whole game in spite of their relatively different premises. The game’s presentation echoes back to those classic titles as well, with some genuinely authentic visuals and audio.
Mr. Particle-Man is one of those wonderful little games that gives you simple but deep controls that require mastery to really get on with, superb level designs, and the kind of difficulty that makes you laugh at your losses rather than cry. As tough as it is, many players may well not be able to beat it, but they’ll almost certainly have a good time trying.