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Switchball


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Rating: 4.6/5 (26 votes)
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Switchball

JohnBSwitchball is a 3D action/puzzle casual game download for Windows created by Atomic Elbow and published by Sierra Online. SwitchballYour goal is to guide a rolling ball to the end of each stage, solving puzzles and crossing treacherous pathways all the way. The game places a heavy emphasis on realistic physics using the AGEIA engine and looks absolutely gorgeous to boot. It's an extraordinarily well-made title that balances action and puzzle solving for a thoroughly engaging experience.

Each level in Switchball sets ramps, boxes, cannons, planks, fans, sheets of cloth and more between you and the goal. To make it through you'll have to roll down narrow ramps, slide objects to clear a path, move items to create a solid floor and perform many other feats. One of the best uses of physics in the game allows you to place boxes on one end of a platform to prevent it from tipping over as you cross. A tutorial system shows hints the first time you encounter a new situation, so settling into the game is a snap.

SwitchballThe controls in Switchball are highly customizable, but to have the most precise control you'll need to use the mouse. Simply slide the mouse in the direction you want to move, pressing the left button for a boost of speed. You can rotate the view using the right mouse button and zoom in and out using the mouse wheel, but usually the camera shifts on its own to give you a clear view of the action.

What makes Switchball really interesting are the morph pads you'll find scattered throughout the game. Each of these spots lets you transform into a different material, bestowing upon you the power of metal, air and more. Your weight, speed and other physical properties change to match your composition, allowing you to do things your normal state could never accomplish. For example, turning into the metal ball makes you heavy and strong, allowing you to shove metal boxes with ease. The downside is that the extra weight can make you crash through weak floors and plummet to your doom.

SwitchballThere are 30 levels in Switchball that take place in five distinct environments: sky, ice, cave, cloud, and lava. Stage design is consistently good and feels fresh throughout the game. The difficulty increases at just the right pace, so you'll be pleasantly compelled to keep playing. And if you're looking for an extra challenge, choose timed mode from the main menu to set a time limit for each level.

Analysis: Switchball is very much like the classic Marble Madness in spirit, but the emphasis here is on realism, physics and puzzle solving. The mix of action and puzzle elements is surprisingly well-done. Even those of us who aren't as adept with a mouse as others can have a good time with the game, as there are numerous checkpoints that save your progress throughout each stage.

One rough spot in Switchball is the precision required to master the controls. This isn't an arcade game where you can jump and fly across the stage with fireworks shooting in the background. Moving the ball has a very visceral feeling to it thanks to the realistic physics, so you have to be patient. Building momentum is a key move in the game, forcing you to back up and get a running start to climb ramps or push crates. The learning curve is about half an hour, so if you put just a little time into it you'll be well rewarded.

Other than the slight learning curve for the controls/physics, Switchball is an inviting game. It's packed with fresh, original puzzles and excellent level design. You'll find it's a delightfully challenging game from beginning to end.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

59 Comments

lopsidation September 1, 2007 2:09 PM

Sounds like the same game mechanics as Within a Deep Forest, I hope it's as fun too!

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Looks like a great game, but will we only see contest's sponsors games from now on? And theme the games the same as the sponsor's upcoming games?


[Edit: No. -Jay]

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My first reaction was similar. I thought, "Hmm... a game of ball physics from a GDC sponsor. This sounds like an oh-so-subtle plug for GDC #4!!."

Too bad it's Windows only.

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from the screenshots looks kinda like ballance
might try it out

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Nooo! I got through the first level of the demo and then paused it to dry dishes for an hour... that was that

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Yes, seeing one single review for a Sierra game is a clear indicator that jig will only be reviewing Sierra games from now on. That's not a total leap in logic at all.

...

Anyway, moving on, I'm very interested in this game. If it's half as good as Gemsweeper (which I realize is completely unrelated), it'll keep me busy for hours.

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Like the game - however every other time I use the left mouse button, it boots me out of the game window (as if I did an alt-tab). Then I have to re-open the game window. But not sure if its due to running Windows Vista. All my old games have strange bugs in them too now that Im on Vista (if they work at all).

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I tried it when GDC4 was announced (was on Sierra's front page).

It's a highend implementation of an old game. Truly beautiful looking, with special effects usually seen in the latest fps. The highest settings maxed out my 3yo 512MB video card (the stills looked great!). Medium settings were no problem. There are realistic physics interactions with other items (crates, stones etc). Very impressive.

Camera annoyances:
1. the camera automatically changes view. A really nice touch for corners; but it also changes the effective direction of the controls, so you need to predict and compensate for the camera movement...
2. you can "free look" (set camera view manually) - but it returns to the preset view when you start to move the ball.

Both are unnecessary and frustrating (and I would guess accidental) complications to a great rendition of classic gameplay.

this was a month ago - maybe fixed now? PS: I posted a comment-review here at the time, but firefox ate it somehow :(...

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Ooh, now this looks like exactly my kind of game!

Downloading the demo now... although the main thing I'm apprehensive about is whether the difficulty curve suits me, which I imagine it won't tell me. I like my puzzles really hard but my tolerance for super-precise mouse manipulation is rather lower.

And I do wish those people accusing JohnB (and implicitly the entire site) of corruption would get a grip. You don't build up a world-class website like this and then sell out for just a few thousand dollars! (And as I see it Jay loves this stuff too much to sell out anyway.)

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Cheers, Dom. ^_^

Switchball is certainly a game we would have reviewed anyway.

And I have been enjoying this game very much myself. Just the right difficulty for me, with some puzzles providing a real challenge. Marble Madness has always been a favorite of mine, and this game really satisfies that itch.

Yow - I struggled a bit with the camera too as I was getting used to the game, and learned to compensate for it as you suggest. Not a big issue, but it's there; similarly, I find myself struggling with the camera in most 3D games I play.

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Whoops, the comparison video card I mentioned was only 64MB (not 512MB). What was I thinking

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Jay - people differ so much! For me, it was so frustrating I uninstalled it within the hour.

I just reinstalled again (25 mins left), and found the keyboard controls make it so much easier - you can control the camera, and it stays. It's funny, because Marble Madness was with a trackball (arcade version), and so I'd've expected the mouse to be ideal...

They do have a "camera mode" switch (key C), but it doesn't seem to work - eg. the free look doesn't stay; and there's no indicator of which mode it's in. I reckon this a bug. Let's hope the developers are avid JIGers and read this bug report.

The physics are great, because they're using AGEIA PhysX. I wonder if anyone here has bought their physics card? I think it's inevitable: silicon is cheaper, but can't go faster, only "wider". But multi-threading for multi-cores is still Very Hard, and so specific-purpose modules make sense. We already have silicon modules for RAM, CPU, GPU, in disk-drives, printers, modems - a physics processing unit next? I "personally believe" the market isn't ready for it today - but will be one day. It might not be AGEIA who reaps the benefit of their foresight. I hope it is.

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Ooh, Marble Madness was a great game (I'm talking about the Maxis CD rom edition)

I'd love to download this game, but my computer is so full of files that it's basically choking.

After I backup all my files and reset the computer I'll give it a whirl.

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I love Marble Madness, Mojo (PS2)and puzzle games. But alas, since Vista on my new system totally turned me off from Windows, my os is now SuSE Linux and cannot try it. Note to Game Developers, this person is the average Joe. Hint. Hint,

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This is just absolutely gorgeous. And the music is beautiful...wonderful physics.

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Great idea for a game, fantastic graphics/sound.
I cannot remember having ever played a game with such a good, relaxing atmosphere. If it wasn't for the 1h limit, I probably would've spent quite some time just looking at the sky background in the second set of levels ...
It took me some time to get used to the controls. However when I finally got the hang of it steering the ball became fairly easy.
Does anyone know if I can get the soundtrack somewhere?

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I played this demo about a month ago, and I liked it a lot. It reminds me of a game that I just played for the Wii-console (but the name slipped my mind), only the actual gameplay is more intelligent here, with puzzles and stuff. It would be fantastic for the wii or the ps3, turning the controller instead of using your keyboard or mouse.

Oh, and I had no problems with the camera. I change view every time I need to with the keyboard, no problem.

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I, too have been playing this game since it was first mentioned on JiG, and have been loving it.

I don't think I can add much more than what's already been said about the difficulty curve, visuals, gameplay, etc, it's all-around a polished and great game.

To those having annoyances with the camera: try hitting c a few times to where it doesn't auto-change, then you can use the WASD keys to rotate/zoom. This is what I've been doing. I also eschewed the mouse for the arrow keys, which let me be much more precise.

Hope that helps. Play on, folks!

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Alternatively to wasd, you can click the left and right mouse buttons to rotate the camera... useful for playing one-handed. I agree though that it would be better if the camera stuck at the last viewing angle, even though it is often useful to set the angle at a perfect 90 degree angle and then using the arrow keys to roll the marble. Long straight planks come to mind...
Awesome game btw! I'm up to lava.
Cheers,
Zen

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I bought this game on the strength of the demo and it's absolutely gorgeous. The visuals are stunning to say the least, from the HDR lighting to the subtle motion blur as you move, the textures, and especially the ultra-realistic physics, it makes for a fantastic and highly compelling ball puzzler that you'll find yourself unable to put down. Few games truly impress me on that level these days, but this is one of them. Especially when you get to the third world and power up that energy ball -- awesome.

It is definitely a dead ringer for Ballance (also recommended) as far as recent releases go, but while Ballance is fun and very nice looking, this takes that concept and polishes it to a high, shiny gloss.

It is very resource-hungry, though; without an Ageia PhysX card to take the physics calculation load off the CPU, things can bog down a bit when there's a tremendous amount of detail present. On my system (Athlon 64 X2 4200+, GeForce 7950GX2 PCI-E 16x, 2GB RAM, XP Pro SP2, running at 1680x1050 with everything maxed) it runs pretty smooth most of the time, but when you zoom right in to get a look at the larger playfield on more complex levels, the frame rate can drop close to single digits.

The gameplay is very intuitive. I find using the keyboard works quite well, using the arrows to move and my left hand to control the manual camera and action button. While this may not give the precision of the mouse, it seems the best balance between view control and movement.

If I have any complaints, it's that the levels all seem a bit short -- especially when compared to Ballance, whose levels sometimes sprawled over quite a distance. While some of the puzzles have you tracing back and forth and performing a bit of grunt work, the extra time it takes to perform these doesn't seem to take away from this feeling; you've passed a few of the level's puzzles and before you know it. I probably wouldn't care too much if there were more levels overall, but a game as beautiful and well designed as this makes you want to keep playing, so when you finish the game you can't help but feel it's over prematurely. Hopefully there will be new level packs made available.

Overall, this is well worth the sticker price, but if you want to play it in all its glory, just make sure you have a relatively beefy rig.

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Has anybody had any trouble when buying this game at all when coming from the UK? I come from England (obviously not using the dollar) and am only 14 (thus don't have a credit card)and my dad says he wouldn't trust the site on a "what if it all goes wrong?" grounds.

Just wondering if this might put his mind at rest (I REALLY WANT THE FULL VERSION!)

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Anyone else having trouble on the fourth stage of level three? I'm having trouble in the chutes when you have to jump over the gaps. I can't seem to make it across the third gap no matter how many times I try.

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Davil, Just keep trying - it took me many tries to get over that giant leap but I finally made it.

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unclecoyote September 4, 2007 2:29 PM

well... i purchased the game. first one in a long time. i have some of the same feelings about the camera angles as the rest. will try their cures. a couple of things: if you quit a scenerio, the checkpoints you made aren't remembered. and that DANG beachball!!! i have had to repeat tasks many times just because of the vagaries of it's flying... the hanging metal boxes followed by a jump almost ended my mouse's life... :) all in all it IS a beautifully put together game visually. i have enjoyed each new place albeit sometimes masochistically.

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I am SO addicted to this game! I'm not much of a first-person schmup type any more. It's refreshing to see a puzzle game that is this stunning. Gives me the feeling of the first time I played Myst! I'm also a sound engineer, and the FX and music are great.

This is the first game I've purchased and played in a long time. It's SO worth it. Frustrating at times, but awesome!

I am stuck on a stage though. Any help perhaps?

Cloud Level, Stage 4 (possibly 5)
I'm at a part where there are two magnet towers (we'll call them Left and Forward) that shoot you up via air vents. You can also change into a metal ball here.
Forward Tower-It consists of an air vent and a magnet tower. To the right is another air vent and a glass tube. If I climb this tower, all I can do is stick there. If I go over to the right the air vent shoots me into Never-neverland.
Left tower-I can get up the tower, to the switch at the end of the rails; however, it's a momentary switch. I don't see any way (boxes, cannonballs, etc.) to hold it down. I'm starting to think that the switch is a red herring.
Switching to a metal ball just gets you stuck on either magnet tower.
Anybody know which part I'm talking about?

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uncle coyote September 8, 2007 3:20 PM

i finally got past the blasted beachball to end my ice age... the game told me "unlocked" but then said i couldn't continue until i had completed all levels... what gives? i closed and restarted the game and sure enough it looks like i have to repeat the last dang level... i BOUGHT it... can't i just please move on?
dang! i DID complete all levels.

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uncle coyote September 8, 2007 5:57 PM

CAN COYOTES BLUSH? YES.
i had in fact skipped a level in the earlier demo phase... sorry for all my yelping and woofing...
off to the caves...

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Can't wait for it in the Xbox 360!
It was supposed to come out in August on XBL:Arcade but it's still not up on the marketplace.

oh well. maybe next wednesday

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At first I loved this game, but the last level ruined it all... tedious and frustrating would describe it well, especially since it is down to shear luck if that final plank is in a suitable position for you to be able to stop it in time...
Really a pity, since I truly enjoyed all levels prior to it (I think I did anyhow).
Zen

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Pushing the little ball around the beautiful scenery is so darn relaxing. The $20 for this game will save me about $200 in therapy.

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Love the game. Reminds me of the old "Gyroscope" game for C64 - and perhaps the fact that you enter and exit each level using the actual gyroscope, I think that it's perhaps a slight nod to that good old game.

One small gripe though - my mouse lags considerably even though I have a good enough config to run the game. It makes the game virtually unplayable with mouse. However, the keyboard controls are very usable once you get used to them - I've managed to get all the gold medals so far on the first 12 levels.

All in all, a terrific entry.

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Bistromathic Author Profile Page September 20, 2007 2:52 PM

I really like this game, especially the very realistic mechanics implementation, though I do agree that the camera controls could have been better thought out. However, by far the best bit was the refreshingly concise EULA... it was completely blank for everyone else, wasn't it?

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Can someone help me with level 5 of the Ice World?

It's the place where you get the choice between the metal ball and the beach ball, and there are four metal crates hanging in a line and your path through them is restricted with metal railings. My initial (and the only) idea was to take the metal ball, give the crates a swinging momentum, get back, grab the beach ball and somehow pass through. In reality it turned out to be quite impossible - it is freakin' hard to get even one crate to swing so perfectly without hitting the railing, getting four crates to do it in such a short time interval is crazy.

So, what am I missing?

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So whaddya think is better guys, Ballance or Switchball?

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uncle coyote September 25, 2007 8:43 PM

OK. Last post. i made it to the highest world the lava level. to get there i went through the most exquisite of levels and a very accurate physical reality of different spheres and gravity. in the end, i feel that while well wrought and true to life in feel, the punishment for failure (often as easy as a synaptic glitch between eye and hand) was in many cases severe... forcing somewhat arduous and tedious repetion of game play. in some cases, several tasks had to be performed to get to the last and most difficult of "leaps". if you failed in that leap, it might take you as many as 10 gate restarts to get another chance at it. this lead to the almost-destruction of my mouse on several occasions. sadistic. in the end, i did get to the first level of LAVA which required three tasks each with their own gated to be completed to move to the next section of that level. one was easy once you figured out the puzzle. one included timer buttons that were incredibly short and demanded single plank rolls and high accuracy. the third demanded traversing tilted planks that the slightest twitch sent you into space. a restart in any of these reset the other two as well. so flawless movement was the only way to continue. i had to say my own title UNCLE at this point and i 86'ed the game. yes, i got my $20 worth of playing time... but for me, finishing the game was obviously impossible and nobody appreciates that.

so.. caveat emptor.

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baba44713:

You know how the cubes are at a junction? On one side of the junction there'll be a little ridge. Get the metal cubes behind the respective ridges to get them clear out of the way.

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uncle coyote: Same problem for me. First Lava level was so viciously difficult, I gave up completely. To me, it's not really "casual" gaming if you have to retry a level continuously for hours on end.

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I finally passed the first Lava stage. Oddly, it was relatively easy after that until the last stage of the entire game, which is even more brutal than the first. If anyone has any tips or tricks, please bring them on. I'm tearing my hair out over it.

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ttbridges October 2, 2007 7:42 PM

Can someone enlighten me as to how to do the middle puzzle at the beginning of Lava 1?

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Anonymous October 10, 2007 3:31 PM

Great game, lots of fun. Made it to Lava level 6 but just can't complete final puzzle. Here are some solutions you have asked for:

Ice World Level 5 -metal blocks in path:
With the metal ball push the block around the corner. They will get caught in the rails. Then go on through with the Air ball.

Cloud World Level 4 - metal.magnet ball:
Use the magnet ball to climb the left tower, throw the switch. Roll down and to angle to get back to original platform. Then switch to metal ball and go over the fans and down the next tube.

Lava World Level 1 - middle part of puzzle 1:
With the marble, push the ball between the railings. With the metal ball, push the small crate between the railings. With the marble, switch on the magnet. The ball should fall into the pipe and push the button for plunger.

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Does anyone know how to get by the metal switches on cloud world level 5 i think? i just got by the first part, but i always get stuck on the row of magnets. Any help? thanks.

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Can anyone please tell me how to get through the row of magnets on Cloud World level 5? It's like the second part of the level or something and I'm confused. I know what to do just not how to do it. Any help? Thanks

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the music is awsome! where to get it ???

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Hello.

It's nostalgically old school overcoming the bad camera mechanics as well as the actual game. Echoes of Marble Madness help too.

Anyway, I'm stuck on Cave World Level 4 and hope someone can kindly help. It's the magnets on ropes.

I can't build a smooth swing on the first rope (the swing is either all wobbly or diagonal to the second rope/magnet). I try building forward(ish) momentum and releasing/re-pressing the Space Bar, but the ball fails to attract the second magnet.

There's a similar obstacle in a early Cave World Level, but I managed to avoid it by finding a Hidden Path.

Help.

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I am playing on an xbox360 so I can't vouch that they are identical but....

ttbridges:

Hint: Think of that middle puzzle at the beginning of Lava 1 as ...

a gun.

Walkthrough:

1.You load the metal box into the back, drop the rock in front and when the magnet turns on, the box shoves the rock into the chute. Later you will have to do this on a timer. It took me several attempts.

.

I too am finding the last level (Lava 6) merciless. That double boost jump in the middle is just brutal given the time you are permitted. I will finish this someday, but wow.

This game rules. Co-Op was a nice (albeit small) bonus.

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I'm in the cave level in which you have to use the jump ball in the U-shaped channel and the last jump is impossible
is there some way to make the jump bigger?

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How do I beat Cloud World Level Sixth???

Why no walk throughs...
Will there be more levels available?

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On Lava level 2, when you are an airball you need to go over a floor covered in spikes to switch off a fan. After doing so, how do you get back to the middle airpump to continue without getting popped by a spike? PLEASE HELP! Thanx...

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Andrew Tuin February 27, 2008 4:01 PM

How the heck do you get past level 6 on ice world. the two fans blowing one way toward 3 towers of blocks and one blowing toward the metal ball. Blowing the ball just can't make it to the metal ball. ANY HELP!

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BURNING DESIRE TO FINISH SWITCHBALL March 11, 2008 4:11 PM

QUESTION:

On Lava level 2, when you are an airball you need to go over a floor covered in spikes to switch off a fan. After doing so, how do you get back to the middle airpump to continue without getting popped by a spike? PLEASE HELP! Thanx...

ANSWER:

As you know, this game is very trick and you have to find all sorts of ways to accomplish the goal.

You do not need to float back to the middle spindle to float your ball. If you position your camera facing the ball, you will see that there are spaces big enough within the spikes that will allow the ball to roll through. Gently and I do mean very gently, with you facing the ball, roll you ball to the left and let it drop down. There are no spike there and very gingerly roll your ball through the area where there are no spike. Boom! You are now back to the middle spindle to float you ball to the middle fan.

Easy, huh? NOT!!! It actually was once I figured it out.

Good luck and let me know if you pass Lava Level 3 as I need help getting past the fans once I float up witht he beach ball to push a box down.

Let me know if you need help on any level before Lava 3.

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RE: BURNING DESIRE TO FINISH SWITCHBALL

I am also perplexed by Lava Level 3, I can move the box from the high up area and jam one of the fans. The box on the ramp can be moved to jam the second fan but that leaves you with nothing to place over the switch to propel you to the platform with the next checkpoint.

If anyone can help, most appreciated.

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FINISHED March 31, 2008 4:16 PM

Last post I was almost done and guess what? I finished the game.

This game is brutal but I just could not allow it to beat me.

When I say I finished the game...well I was able to make it to the ship.

How? I was able to place my ball in front of the board that needs to be knocked down by a lever. The door will not fall properly unless hit by the lever.

Here's what I did for those that would like to finish this game but are finding it difficult.

Get yourself all the way to the door and knock the board into the lava.

Position your ball quickly at the end so when the board comes back, you (the ball) is in front of the board.

Start pushing on the board in the middle until it is standing straight up.

Now, take your ball and gently start hitting the right side of the ball until it falls down. NOTE: This will probably take several tries.

If the board falls at an angle, you can gently roll (move) your ball under the board untill it is flat.

Once the board is flat, start hitting the back of the board to move it forward (just enough for you to make it over to the ship. NOTE: This will take several attempts.

The block of wood that is on the other side where the ship is located makes you think that the long board had to fall on top of it to make it over. Guess what?! That block of wood moves.

I won't tell you what happens once you reach the ship and finish the game. I will just say that I was expecting a big party and some beer after all the torture I went through, but it didn't happen.

This is a wonderful game if you have the time, patience and the eye of the tiger.

Give it a shot and let me know how it turns out.

I am seriously thinking about playing this game all over again. It was a blast! ...and NO, I'm not a glutton for punishment; I just like a challenge.

Email me if I can help.

Smiles!

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FINISHED March 31, 2008 7:10 PM

This is for Phil who posted on 3/12/08:

Lava Level 3:

You are correct in jamming one of the fans with the box.

Once the box is knocked down, jam the first fan. (First fan...meaning the first one when entering that section)

Use the regular ball (not beach ball) to inch the other box across the just enough to get past the first fan but NOT enough to be blown off by the second fan.

Ok. Now that the box is in between both fans, go back and move the box to jam the second fan.

Now you might be thinking that the fan will blow your ball. Guess what? It will. I found a little trick to keep me a bit steady.

TRICK: Make sure you have enough room around your mouse so that you can maneuver and tap the left arrow button on your keyboard so when the fan is trying to blow you off to the right; the left tapping of that key will keep you to the left.

NOTE: This took several attempts.

Move the box to the switch so that the air comes on.

You must now turn back and get the beach ball. Why? Because the regular ball is heavy enough to move the box, but is too heavy to be blown upwards by the air.

Remember the 'Trick' when going back to get the beach ball. You must now tap the right arrow key on the keyboard because the fan will now blow you to the left since you are going in the opposite direction.

Once you get back to the other side, get the beach ball and float to where you push the box. Stay away from the air until you're ready to float up. The air will easily push the beach ball to the next level up and you will be at the checkpoint.

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can someone help with cave world level 2 i drop down to ledge but cannot make it uo the cloth ramp 4 nothing. anyone know how to beat this level? thanks

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crazypuzzler811 Author Profile Page November 2, 2008 7:35 PM

The website must have changed. The link isn't going anywhere at all. I want to play this game. Please help!

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I have been reading the comments for this game, and man do I want it! But my parents are over worried about viruses, malware, adware, and the like. Has anyone had any trouble at all with this game? I am running Windows XP.

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Dang... the link still isn't fixed?

can someone PLEASE help me find where to download this game? I'd hate to do it illegally, but are torrents the only option? I'll still pay for it if I can.

[Looks like Amazon sells it in a retail package: http://www.amazon.com/Switchball-Pc/dp/B000VIHAPY -Jay]

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Oh! Thank you so much! This is just what I needed! I'm not sure where I put my original copy (probably on my old computer... that broke), but enjoyed the game so much that I'm happy to pay for it again.

Thanks again!

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Anonymous July 26, 2010 1:19 AM

As much as I love this game, and have been playing it religiously until I have reached the final stages, Lava World was a little too much. The tediousness of having to guide a stone ball and then an air ball down a huge track, all while timed was one of the most difficult things I have ever come across. If you make one mistake, you are doomed to try all over again. The last level I could not even complete. I gave it my best, but in the end the puzzle left me... puzzled.

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