Schemata – A nerdy puzzler and useful study tool

Mar 31, 2018

Schemata is a puzzle game based on electrical circuit diagrams. It’s extremely nerdy, but it has engaging gameplay and could work well as a study tool.

Logic gates will be familiar to those who didn’t spend physics lessons goofing off. But for the benefit of any rebellious types who were too cool to pay attention (perhaps busy doodling penises or writing notes to a crush), they are components that effect the flow of electricity in a circuit, depending on input conditions. Still awake? Good, because although Schemata doesn’t have the most exciting subject matter – there’s no kawaii animals or gun fights sadly – the gameplay is actually quite engaging. Essentially, the user is required to memorise the inputs for each gate type and enter them correctly, allowing the electricity to travel as far as possible before it runs out. During a level, in addition to it steadily ticking down, the power level falls sharply if the user attempts to pass through a gate with an incorrect input. When the power gauge hits zero, it’s game over. Quick thinking is required. It’s satisfying to string correct input combos together, and the game provides genuine tension as the draining power causes the level to gradually darken. For even more intensity while you play, you could unplug your freezer and not plug it back in until all the levels are complete. I dare you.

The game’s difficulty is increased as the logic gates get combined, and eventually more gate types are added to the mix. Later levels punish trial and error by ‘shorting out’ an input so that if it’s re-selected, it drains a lot of power. And during the Master level, the user’s memory is truly tested through the removal of the output visual indicator, which shows a correct input. Sorry, fans of idle games, you won’t be able to mindlessly tap the screen for long. But there’s plenty to aid the user’s familiarity with the gate types: there’s a tutorial, a casual level (with no power gauge), and a sandbox level. In fact, the game is so good at teaching and testing its subject matter that it could prove a useful study tool. It’s also evidence against video games being labelled a waste of time (let’s not mention Bunny Pancake Kitty Milkshake). Schemata could provide a productive way to use smartphones in the classroom, as opposed to the kids Instagramming the adventures of a stolen dissected frog or something.

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The game doesn’t have the most exciting aesthetic. Elements of this include the graph paper in-game background and the circuit board main menu. While this style is appropriate to the subject matter, it’s not going to win many people over. Even on a retro or minimalist level, it’s pretty drab. Let’s just say it won’t be stealing glances from Candy Crush lovers any time soon. And while the game’s arpeggiated, dark, synth soundtrack is atmospheric, there’s only one looping track which gets annoying after a while.

The game is so good at teaching and testing its subject matter that it could prove a useful study tool.

Schemata is also held back by its lack of depth and rewards. While the gameplay will be fun for a while, the format isn’t expanded much. In addition to the four basic levels, the user can unlock infinite levels, but they don’t provide enough in the way of variation. User motivation can also be dampened by the baffling fact that everything can be unlocked from the settings. Hey, Friendly Fish Games! That’s really nice of you, but rewards would be better. New skins, for example. That would also help with the visuals. On the plus side, the game does have achievements and leaderboards, but they aren’t likely to be enough to keep the player coming back long term.

Schemata may be too nerdy for most, and it would benefit from a more exciting façade, along with more depth and variation. But it is fun to play, and it could also prove to be a very useful study tool – that’s if the pupils aren’t distracted by choosing a filter for their dead frog’s latest caper.

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Our Rating

Engaging, tense gameplay. Works as a study tool. Achievements and leaderboards.Drab visuals. Repetitive soundtrack. Not much depth. Lack of rewards.
Price: Free+
Price: Free+
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