It starts as a vine. You sit back and watch it, chasing the black, diamond-studded sun, and a fluttery golden angel taunts its path. Then you realize that this is the game, and you follow that path with your cursor. The vine curls. As it curls up toward the angel, a leaf sprouts in its wake, catching it, or maybe the angel eats it, then it grows dark. A second vine is emerging. This is going to get more interesting.
Phyta, while sounding like a homophone for fighter, is much more graceful than that would suggest. It's an art game that, like the best of them, bothers to actually be a game and offer some depth of play. Your objective is to somehow deal with the series of angels that come on-screen. Most of them you have to feed; later you have to suffocate them beneath the incessant screen scrolling. As you do, your black sun cursor becomes more intricate, then resets, leading to another series of angels with more ornate patterns draping down like frozen gold drops. Gold drops people.
Visually this game is a wonder, combining a relatively simple set of monochromatic shapes with haunting light shaders and the uncanny furling (or is it unfurling?) of the vines. However, the increasing number and complexity of the vines as the game progresses is not merely a visual reward; their tendency to warp and curl, to stop short and speed along with the hold of the mouse, all culminate in a game that fuses it aesthetics with its mechanics into a lava-lamp impressionism. If this direction of game design continues to evolve, nobody will need drugs anymore.