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The Real World Sucks Right Now, the Very Chill 'Cycles' Does Not

This tiny, free game offers a window to a happier world.
All Cycles screens courtesy of Galen Drew

If you need relief from the constant barrage of bad news then you could book a week-long stay at a tropical resort. Failing that, consider this an invitation to a digital vacation that you can access immediately. All you need to do is download Cycles, open it up on your PC, and you're there—no long-haul flight necessary.

The advised way to interact with Cycles is to open it up as a small window and let it sit somewhere out of the way on your desktop. You don't need to attend to it at all times, instead it can act almost as if a pocket screensaver; something that steals a glance every now and then.


Inside it holds a diorama, a square dissection of an idyllic piece of natural land suspended in empty space. You can rotate and zoom your view to your preference, framing individual details for their pleasing aesthetic, or taking in the holistic beauty of the entire scene from a distance.

The experience on offer is similar to the 2014 ambient game Mountain in that it asks of you only to pick a view and enjoy it. But unlike that game, Cycles doesn't have any hidden interactions or scenarios that unfold, it is intended purely as a tool towards relaxation. Its creator, Seattle-based designer Galen Drew, asks you only to watch the seasons pass over that patch of land.

The red of autumn trees transitions to green and back again; an unseen sun cycles overhead, pushing yellow dawns into crepuscular purples; snow falls in featherweight ensemble against a cold blue. You are invited to see how light and shadow fall over the island's forms with a comforting slowness and consistency. To breathe slow and steady the pace of your body.

If you want more, you can make a hobby of steering the camera around to find an arrangement that tells a story—you need only to imagine the scenario. Set your gaze upon the steady turn of the windmill and picture the hard-working wooden machinery inside. Or the observatory, where a stargazer regularly pokes the telescope from the dome and towards the sky.

Let your mind drift in, unravel stress, create miniature stories, and dance to the gentle tune of a piano.