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Meet Specimen, an iOS game that proves you can't see color as well as you thought

Caitlin McGarry | Sept. 9, 2015
Specimen uses art and science to challenge your eyesight—and it's set to a funky groove.

If you’re doing well, the spectrum of colors of the blobs inside the petri dish will shrink. Soon, they’ll all look similar in color to each, though each blob is actually a different hue. As of now, only a handful of people have beaten the game.

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Some players suggest turning off the lights or blurring your eyes to see the color variations more clearly. Credit: Specimen

Early players developed hacks for conquering levels: Some recommended turning the brightness on your iPhone screen as high as it will go, while others pause and unpause the game “because they think that gives them an advantage,” programmer and designer Charlie Whitney said. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. Playing with the lights off in your room or purposefully blurring your eyes can also help you match the specimen to the background.

To keep you motivated, Whitney designed the blobs to have some personality. They don’t just sit static in the petri dish; they move around at random and seem as friendly as blobs possibly can.

But eventually, when frustration finally wins out, you will want to kill those blobs with fire. That’s where the music comes in.

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The sound designers behind Two Dots created the music for Specimen. Credit: James Bareham

Music to keep you moving

Gorochow enlisted her friends Cody Uhler and Ross Wariner, composers and sound designers who created the soundtrack for Two Dots, to set the mood for Specimen.

If you’re anything like me, you play games with the sound turned off. But Specimen’s music is a mood-booster, especially when you keep dying.

“It’s quirky, oddly groovy,” Uhler said. “The grooviness paired with the visuals make me think of a lava lamp sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.”

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Specimen’s creators told Cody Uhler, left, and Ross Wariner, right, to think organic and amorphous when creating the game’s soundtrack. The result sounds vaguely like being inside a lava lamp. Credit: James Bareham

It’s a good thing. The blobs are jelly-like, and the sound associated with tapping them makes you feel like you’re popping bubble wrap. The Specimen team told Uhler and Wariner to think “organic, science-y, amorphous.” The resulting three pieces of synthesizer-made music loop together to create a vaguely psychedelic experience, which might sound strange until you start playing.

“Because it’s such a brutal game, it was important that the music was something that would get you into a flow state,” Gorochow said. “It had to be something that pulled you in and helped you forget how much time had passed. I think they got it there.”


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