Monday, November 07, 2005

Psychoballs Review

Psychoballs, developed and published by Intermediaware.
The Good: Unique puzzle gameplay, variety of level arrangements
The Not So Good: No level editor (yet), challenging
What say you? An original puzzle game with simple controls and high difficulty: 5/8

Adjectives are fun: they can modify what would normally be quite a typical statement. For example, “I met a girl” can become “I met a skanky girl,” completely changing the meaning. Why do I bring this up? Because the game we have today doesn’t just involve balls, it involves PSYCHOBALLS. From German developer Intermediaware (a division of Compuglobalhypermeganet) comes a new puzzle game involving balls that have indeed gone psycho. Where will the madness end? Find out now!

Psychoballs features pretty standard affair in the sound and graphics departments for a puzzle game. The background music is your usual fare of techno beats, although you can play your own music from a CD while playing the game. The sound effects are very basic, but they need not be complex in a game such as this. The graphics do not have any cool effects that some other puzzle games have, just some minor explosions and flashes that were probably done in Paint. Nothing is too extravagant in these two departments of Psychoballs.

Psychoballs is a single player puzzle game, where you try to eliminate all the spinners on the board by making them contain four balls of the same color at once. Balls travel down given paths around the board, and get caught by a spinner if an available slot is facing them. Spinners are the only parts in the game that can be controlled directly by the player. Players can rotate the spinners clockwise, and can release any of the captured balls into the pipes to move them to other spinners. The gameplay involves moving the different colored balls between the spinners in order to get four balls of the same color in any specific spinner. The game adds some more complications to the game by including special sections of each map that may change its direction, transport balls to another position of the map, only allow balls of a certain color to pass, or change a balls color. The tutorial does a good job in conveying the basic gameplay to the user, much better than the poor explanation I am attempting here. There are 50 different levels in the game, and each of them can be completed in one of three ways: by destroying the balls in a specified order, placing the balls in a spinner in a given amount of time, or completing the level within the time limit. Currently, there is no level editor available for the game, but the developers have indicated that one is in beta testing and should be released soon, which will add greatly to the longevity of the game.

Psychoballs is an interesting game, and the basic premise it employs has not been attempted in any other game (as far as I know), and this must be commended. There are too many copycat games out there (especially puzzle games; how many Tetris clones are there?) and finding one with an original concept is refreshing. The game is actually very difficult, as you are both racing against the clock and trying to manage tens of different spinners all filled with different colored balls that you want to switch. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube on steroids (warranting a 10 game suspension, no doubt). It’s almost too difficult to recommend to those gamers who cannot multitask during gameplay, as you need to keep track of several things at once during the game. The slightly lower than average sound and graphics don’t really matter much in a puzzle game, as the gameplay is what’s important. Psychoballs may also prove to be a little too repetitious to some; although there is a good variety to the levels, it is essentially the same basic gameplay every time. Fans of puzzle games will find enough creativity to merit taking a good look at Psychoballs, as long as they are willing to experience some challenging (and sometimes frustrating) levels.