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Olo review

Pucking fantastic.

Even the name has perfect symmetry. Olo is one of the classiest productions you'll ever see on iOS, a minimalist multiplayer game that's as achingly gorgeous as it is perfectly tuned. I know I'm throwing around superlatives like confetti here, but there's no denying it: Olo, in the common parlance, is a beaut.

Your seduction begins with the soothing glow of the title screen, shifting through primary colours as a beguiling tune plays. A guitar softly enters, strumming away. Who are you, guitar man? "Silence," he whispers. "I am the sound of impeccable taste." Two-player? Four-player? Online? Three modes; three letters in the name; three items in a list. This is how Olo rolls.

The game is an amalgam of boules and air hockey, played vertically on an evenly-split rectangle. The two colours change in every game (of course they do, this is Olo), but if I'm red then the top half of the screen will also be red - and that's what to aim for. You pitch the circular Olos towards this like pucks, and any in that region score one point. You take a turn, then your opponent does, until you're both out of Olos.

And the trap is sprung! Here, my opponent has the lead - but also has no Olos left, meaning a simple few slides up the table with my last pair will grant an easy win.

The strategy comes in with the size of the Olos, and a white strip at the far edge of either scoring zone. This is a deadzone where Olos that come to rest can be reclaimed and reused - an absolutely key tactic. Olos that are too close to your end can be knocked into it relatively easily, and any overcooked shots become easy money, which applies both ways. The Olos' size variance is what sometimes throws off your judgement, the bigger ones capable of smashing through enemy formations but proving hard to control, the little ones more useful for sneaky scores than positional play. Scores are tallied when both players have run out of Olos, and if one player has more then they just keep on playing.

It all adds up to a game you can play with your first swipe and still be learning things about hours later. The way my first few online opponents bounced their Olos back into their deadzones was a revelation, pinging things where they wanted, playing plant shots, and always bringing the initial Olo back home to be used again. Others have set up robust defensive lines against me, then nudged the whole lot over the halfway line with a few genius endgame bullets. Another of Olo's beautiful online touches is allowing voice chat over WiFi - if, that is, you're playing with someone on your friends list.

Olo is small but perfectly-formed, a game of depth with simple rules and the classiest presentation. I'll allow that the four-player mode isn't much cop, and it drops connection during online games a little too often for my liking, but that is it. Olo is a beautifully designed thing from top to bottom. Apple doesn't make video games, of course. But if it did, you wouldn't imagine they'd be a million miles away from this.

8 / 10

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