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Cell To Singularity Review: One Click Away From Simulating The Universe

When players boot Cell To Singularity for the first time, an icosahedron or a D20 pops into the screen and reveals itself as Semblance. They are a program designed to simulate the many events happening in the universe… and will totally not ask players to roll for initiative. This disappointing Dungeons & Dragons joke aside, Semblance will then bring players to a view of the Earth in the volcanic stages of its youth and players are left to click away. Over time, Cell To Singularity will prompt new unlockables for players, revealing a tech tree and upgrades that can boost their earnings per click until they get a passive means of earning credits.

This premise immediately establishes Cell To Singularity as a run-of-the-mill idle clicker. However, there’s just something about seeing an Amino Acid swim in the Primordial Sea that can make the game worth a few more clicks before fully closing the program. And once players notice a downwards path in the tech tree that unlocks the Moon and the Solar System… well, what the hell, getting to the first few ten thousand credits or so shouldn’t be a waste of time. But wait, what’s this unknown cosmic phenomenon that just popped in the screen that takes a few hundred clicks to unlock?

Before players know it, Cell To Singularity will have them managing a couple of simulations that reflect some stage in the universe’s development. By the time they unlock their first cell, they’re probably juggling unlockables outside the planet, discovering what truly destroyed the dinosaurs, and trying to outsmart the game by making a hyper-efficient clicking machine. And this is before players awe at the gorgeous displays of biomes whenever they make progress in the tech tree. There’s just a lot of things to do in this idle clicker with a tech tree that vaguely resembles the tech tree of a 4X game. And from a player’s standpoint, it’s precisely this similarity with a run-of-the-mill tech tree where the game will strike a player’s fancy: why are these items in the tech tree even important? Thankfully, Cell To Singularity delivers.

Play Smart So Evolution Doesn’t Take Millions Of Clicks

The first minutes of Cell to Singularity

At first glance, Cell To Singularity focusing more on the simulated aspect of Earth and astronomical objects evolving over time can feel somewhat “dull” compared to the more quirky OG Cookie Cutter or their other more action-packed genre cousins. After all, when players notice how Amino Acids predictably evolve into the world’s first Prokaryotic Cell, there’s not much to expect that we don’t already know. While this much is somewhat true, it’s how the game plays (no pun intended) out the simulation that makes gameplay surprisingly engaging.

Recreating Life’s Evolution One Click At A Time

A view of the Tech Tree of Life

Like other idle clickers, Cell To Singularity upgrades clicking or idle earning capabilities after acquiring enough resources. Being a science simulation, the game’s aptly named Tech Tree Of Life is spread across realistic science processes. Since the game doesn’t have an action-packed element or even the element of surprise, upgrades become more worthwhile as the game “explains” how each upgrade benefits the previous unlockable from a scientific perspective.

For example, after players unlock the Primordial Soup, they can branch out into multiple different paths. Players may opt for basic upgrades like the Volcano-to-Ozone Layer, as eruptions eject oxygen into the atmosphere. They may also turn to Nucleotides-to-RNA due to simple molecules forming specific behaviors, or Nucleotides-to-DNA that become a major upgrade as the latter forms the unique signature of lifeforms. Alternatively, players may go for the major upgrade Amino Acid and upgrade to Protein-Plasma Membranes or Protein-Bacterium, reflecting how Proteins can form either of these structures. Either way, both the Amino Acid and DNA eventually become the Prokaryotic Cell, a major upgrade representing the first of single-celled organisms on Earth.

From both a casual player’s and a science enthusiast’s point of view, “recreating” that sense of discovery about how life on Earth evolved out of a steady chain of process after process is rewarding. Soon, players may be eager to “predict” just what new processes await in the Tech Tree Of Life, and predicting what each process means and how they tie into the previous unlockable can become a minigame of its own. This feeling of discovery can become quite addictive in Cell To Singularity, to the point that stumbling upon a lack of resources can become quite a bummer. After all, not having enough evolutionary resources means players have to bear clicking a few hundred times before the next meaningful upgrade comes along.

At least, unless they’re able to get the right upgrades.

Play Smart To Get Unlockables Fast

Unlockables in Cell to Singularity

Surprisingly enough, it’s within the addictive quality of discovering new things where Cell To Singularity positions its key gameplay mechanic. Instead of players clicking their way through upgrades simply being “for the thrill,” Cell To Singularity positions a viable reward to make playthroughs worthwhile: witnessing evolution itself. 

As such, encountering a roadblock in the form of a more costly upgrade or passive resources not being enough can challenge players into figuring out more efficient ways of earning resources outside clicks. These obstacles become more present in advanced Simulations (more on this later) where major upgrades have to be leveled up a certain number of times to unlock the next stage, ensuring that players spend more of their precious resources just to boost the levels of existing items.

This is where the much-admired challenge of the likes of Cookie Clicker could be seen, and Cell To Singularity spices things up in multiple ways. The most basic way of boosting resource acquisition is through three forms of upgrades: those that boost the earnings of random clicks, those that boost the earnings of clickable resources, and those that improve passive earnings over time. However, players also need to remember that clickable resources could be upgraded further by repurchasing them for a higher amount.

Traits, Extra Clickables Add Spice To Progress

A Trait being upgraded in Cell to Singularity

In certain Simulations, clickable resources also contain Traits or bonuses that are unlocked after attaining specific levels or achievements. These Traits represent special properties unique to these clickable resources, such as notable trivia or general information about their habitats and unique evolutionary properties. Sometimes, players need to unlock Traits to further boost the earning capability of a resource, but they can only know what a Trait contains upon unlocking them. This element of risk-reward adds a layer of excitement to a player’s experience, especially if the choice lies between investing much-awaited resources towards yet another level on an existing item or towards a new upgrade that will lead to yet another resource roadblock.

Outside the upgrades of clickable resources and passive earnings are Achievements players can also unlock throughout their playthrough, adding yet another layer of rewards that they can achieve while working their way through Simulations. Every now and then, milestones provide players with new clickables that pave the way to another Simulation or a resource reward to help jumpstart the next part of that particular tree. Truth be told, Cell To Singularity has all the parts of a traditional idle clicker, but it’s in its presentation where the game sets itself apart from its contemporaries.

A 4X Tech Tree Has Never Been This Mesmerizing

Unlocking a lifeform in Cell to Singularity

Semblance asking for the player’s assistance in understanding evolution in the universe is represented beautifully in the many Simulations the fictional program offers. This is something that players don’t immediately see at the onset, as the start of every playthrough provides them with a view of a volcanic Earth freshly born and revolving a young Sun. Clicking Earth enough times will prompt the appearance of the Tech Tree of Life, after which players taken to the main upgrade screen. When players unlock the Primordial Soup and then Amino Acids, they’re taken to a new view where a lone Amino Acid floats in the aforementioned chemical sea. The time players realize they can switch views between the Earth, the primordial soup, and the Tech Tree of Life is the time Cell To Singularity provides its best feature: the visuals.

Multiple Simulations Provide Meaningful Eyecandy

Some Simulations available in Cell to Singularity

It’s not as though Cell To Singularity boasts 4K graphics in Unreal Engine 5, where the very scales of reptiles or the tiniest tinge of solar flare could be seen in crisp detail. When Cell To Singularity shines in terms of visuals, it’s from its meaningful presentation. When players make progress and unlock the Sponge, it appears in a new biome outside the ancient Primordial Sea. This time around, the Sponge is stuck at the bottom of the ocean where some of the first aquatic lifeforms like the Jellyfish and the first Fishes start to roam around, courtesy of the Swimming upgrade that was unlocked after obtaining the Muscles upgrade.

This “simultaneous” tiering of evolutionary progress, and seeing how each unlockable ties into making major upgrades (the ones that spawn new creatures) possible, adds meaning to Cell To Singularity‘s otherwise mundane idle clicking gameplay. Even the white line that leads into an empty circle hints at potential upgrades that players need to unveil, with the distance of the white circles revealing just how far off into the evolutionary tree the “next stage of life” could be seen.

At a certain point in time, a Mysterious Rock appears that players can click a couple hundred times to reveal an Ancient Fossil, unlocking the Mesozoic Valley Simulation. This reveals an entirely new layer of gameplay, complete with its own tech tree that outlines the evolution of dinosaurs up until the iconic meteor strike that marked one of the world’s first extinction events.

When players unlock a new Simulation, Semblance teases a purpose as to why players should pursue completing this new occurrence. This always comes in the form of a lesson, which in the case of the Mesozoic Valley is to reflect on how the dinosaurs’ extinction may reflect the potential eventual demise of humanity. When players unlock the first episode of Beyond, Semblance also proposes a similar lesson, where humanity should look at the wonders of the stars while they still have time, especially when the Sun will inevitably consume Earth once it becomes a red giant.

Going Beyond Is A Satisfying Journey

An exoplanet in Cell to Singularity

It’s when players unlock the Beyond Simulation that Cell To Singularity surprises with a more in-depth take on universal evolution. True to its name, players who unlock the Black Hole Portal at the bottom of the original Tech Tree of Life will be sent to a replica of the Solar System where they slowly have to unlock the Inner Planets. This is just for Episode 1, however. Each new Beyond Episode will tackle even more celestial bodies – from completing the Solar System and its component planets, its surrounding comets, and even a place for a hologram of the theorized Planet X.

Now in Episode 22, the Beyond Simulation features major components of the observable universe – at least, from what appears to be the Laniakea Supercluster. At this point of the simulation, players can see as far as Stellar Graveyards such as the Helix Nebula and the Hourglass Nebula, with more teased to come with “Deep Space” still tagged as processing. Going way back, the Beyond Simulation’s tech tree reveals unlockables even in Interstellar Space, such as potential habitable exoplanet systems like Trappist-1 and Kepler-186f, complete with trivia on the perils of trying to explore them. Space telescopes such as the Hubble also become unlockable icons, while Constellations become their own discoverable biome diorama.

And when players reveal the interstellar map, a surprising view of the night sky surprises them. In an era where Elite Dangerous and Universe Simulator are too expensive and too resource-intensive for space fans, Cell To Singularity has them covered with a rudimentary but visually immersive view of its existing universe. With the Sun at its default center, players can zoom out to reveal approximate orbits of planets and other relevant interstellar bodies. And much to the amazement of players, they can click any of these interactive objects to zoom into their perspective. This allows players to view up-close renderings of celestial bodies, complete with simple but immersive animations such as rotations. These descriptions seem mundane to read on paper, but seeing the depth of visuals the game offers easily makes each component unlock in every Beyond Episode more exciting than the last.

There’s Always Something Worth The Click

Some unlockables in Cell to Singularity’s Beyond Simulation

The premise of Cell To Singularity surprisingly works for its idle clicker mechanic, especially when taken from the perspective of evolution inside and outside the planet taking place across eons. In the game, uniquely-named in-game resources in Simulations might represent “Years” and every upgrade that players unlock may represent that “moment” an evolved lifeform or a new celestial body appears in the universe. In this regard, players choosing to delay an upgrade or prioritize other developments won’t “hurt” both the gameplay and the simulation, and in the end facilitating an idle experience that progresses based on the player’s terms.

It’s this idea of venturing forth into the unknown, where the “unknown” is unlocking some form of ancient history or scientific knowledge, that makes Cell To Singularity worth deep-diving into. Its most recent update hints at the arrival of the Bronze Age, or the part in history where the first signs of language could be found but most hints of existing civilizations have vanished due to the mysterious Bronze Age Collapse. It’s interesting to see how Cell To Singularity would simulate Bronze Age culture into yet another biome diorama, and even more interesting to see how the game would attempt to reconcile this missing piece in history.

And even then, one might be thrilled to see how the game can simulate the discovery of other ancient cultures and technologies. Whereas a traditional 4X title would simply see this as yet another unlock in their tech tree, Cell To Singularity adds a layer of meaning to each new discovery. Whereas the discovery of Paper leading into Paper Money could give a financial upgrade to a civilization in a 4X game, Cell To Singularity‘s trivia snippets could provide a more grounded take on the importance something as mundane as paper has provided to the growth of human civilization as a whole.

Verdict: The Universe Is Indeed A Mouse Click Away

An active biome in Cell to Singularity

From a purely casual standpoint, Cell To Singularity is a must-play if simply to finish its simulations. The vast number of Simulations or evolutionary branches that present different aspects of Earth’s history and stellar evolution provide days’ worth of content for players to unlock. When combined with its constant updates and the increasing costs of upgrades and unlockables, it can take months or even years to finish the entirety of Cell To Singularity‘s major branches. For a casual gamer, the wealth of content they can work to unlock across playthroughs can make the game a worthwhile investment even without spending money towards its currency.

Evolution Might Be Too Long For Clicks

Sadly, it’s also in the length of the game where it misses some of its marks. Being an idle clicker, a game like Cell To Singularity relies heavily on two elements to thrive: clicking to get that oh-so-satisfying resource count tick high up the millions and trillions, and idle animations to entertain gamers enough to leave their screens open. Granted, the game does accumulate resources passively even when players exit the game. However, there’s not much to explore in Cell To Singularity that merits staying inside the game for hours at a time.

There’s only so much clicking a player could do before they hit a dead end on an upgrade that needs an exorbitant amount of resources to unlock. While it’s true that resource-per-click and passive resources can be upgraded further via built-in levels… again, there’s so much clicking a player could do to increase the level of an icon before they get bored. Outside constant clicking, even staring at activities in the various biomes or stellar environments at the game’s disposal could only remain entertaining for long before players may want to veer off into staring into reels or shorts.

These elements don’t break the game experience per se, but they remain hurdles that Cell To Singularity may need to overcome outside vibrantly animated backdrops and various upgrade options.

A Simulation Worthy Of The Effort

Under its nature as an idle clicker, Cell To Singularity goes above and beyond in visual design and thematic presentation. Idle animations in backdrops across eras and stellar locations remain an intelligent choice to boost player immersion, especially with its intuitive Tech Tree Of Life system. When observed from a purely presentation perspective, Cell To Singularity achieves stellar heights in terms of visually stunning displays (at least, given its graphical limitations) and relaxing music. Its lack of an “active” gameplay mechanic is compensated with keen attention to detail, with its combination of upgrades with the thrill of discovery worthy of praise for an idle game.

Just because the game doesn’t feature any action doesn’t mean it’s any less entertaining – something that not all idle games immediately offer its players. Cell To Singularity instead shines in handing the reins to players as “evolutionary scientists,” sticking true to its main mission of helping Semblance simulate whatever they can of processes around the universe.

Interested players can check out Cell To Singularity through this Steam link! The game is currently available on the PC, iOS, and Android devices.

Rating: 8/10

Rhenn Taguiam

Rhenn Taguiam is a frustrated journalist with a knack for comic books and video games. He likes pizza and pasta, and has an uncontrollable urge to gush over anything Super Sentai, Star Trek or X-Men. He is currently on his way to get his Master's Degree - unless he creates his own video game or graphic novel first.

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