Ballonius


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
| Comments (41) | Views (8)

dancemonkeyBalloniusBallonius, from first-time CGDC participants Aaron Cox and Graham Jans, reminds me of that old Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, and Martin Short movie Innerspace, but only in a superficial "I feel like I'm floating around blood cells" sort of way, and certainly not in a "cheated out of precious moments of my life" way.

Control a ship in a miniature-yet-epic battle against undulating bubbles and their mindless minions. Using the [left] and [right] arrow keys to steer and [up] to thrust (Asteroids-style), you must weave in and out of the bubbles in a race against the clock. Collect energy from shifting beams that connect two bubbles while avoiding being caught within the bubbles themselves or being hit by their bug-like drones. You have one defense (besides agility), and that's the ability to hit [spacebar] and fold up into an impenetrable ball while maintaining your forward momentum. Collect enough energy to fill your meter and you progress to the next stage.

Analysis: Ballonius is a fantastic action game that I was drawn to immediately and just couldn't stop playing until I had finished all of its stages. Aaron and Graham have done an excellent job of structuring each level as a sort of mini-puzzle. The main challenge is to finish each stage in the shortest time possible, offering you unlimited chances to succeed, thereby allowing you full enjoyment of the game itself without the stress of worrying about losing outright. Since you can't really lose per se, you can be more aggressive with your gameplay and really go all out to complete each stage in the shortest possible time. It's a winning formula.

The developers also did a nice job of introducing new elements at a steady pace with each new stage. The difficulty increases in a smart and interesting way, rather than just throwing more and faster enemies at you as you progress. Each level offers a unique challenge that requires some thought, quick reflexes, and just a little bit of luck.

Play Ballonius

41 Comments

Wow.

Just... wow. W. O. W.

I have so many awesome things to say about this game. First, I think it's by far the most creative interpretation of the "ball physics" theme. On one level, it's simply blobs bouncing around, but the energy link between two balls that pulls them towards each other when it's picked up is genius. It immediately makes you have to plan out your next move (because otherwise the balls will smash into each other), and it allows for so many other technique, one of which is killing/avoiding enemies. It's SO COOL.

Second, the kinds of enemies are awesome. There're just the ones that run into you by jumping off the blobs. Later on, there are ones that jump on their blobs to make it difficult for you to maneuver through the quickly-moving blobs. And then there are ones that temporarily act like missiles if they jump off the blob. And it's so satisfying when you entice one of them to move into a hard blob which kills them.

The sounds are well thought-out, too, with blob bouncing noises subtly changing as the hardness of the blobs change, and the transparent/color-change effect of soft blobs to hard blobs is very good, too.

It's a fast-paced game, which is good, too, not only in the gameplay itself, but in the interface. And the difficulty is perfect; ramping slowly up so that the player gets used to the unique gameplay. But if you get killed or sucked in by a blob, it doesn't matter, a new ship just appears and you continue on. In this vein, it's difficult to get past some levels, but not frustrating at all. It's genius.

If there's anything bad/constructive to say about this game, it's the music loop which is agonizingly short. The game is so well thought-out and constructed that it pains me that the music isn't up to the same level. But everything else completely makes up for it.

By far the best game in this competition yet, IMHO.

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Oops, didn't mean to turn comments off here.

For those who tried this game earlier today and experienced browser issues, the problem appears to have been resolved. If you do notice anything unusual, please let us know.

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Works great for me now!

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Barry Rutherford October 8, 2007 12:09 AM

Nice game so far Graham. Found what I think might be a bit of a bug. The parasites can hit you through your protective bubble at the start of a respawn.

Other than that good game guys!

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Barry: That's intentional. One of the tips warns you about that.

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Yeah. One of my favorites and definitely one of the best implementations of the theme as well as awesome everything.

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Dan Black October 8, 2007 1:30 AM

Thought this one was really great. Maybe my favorite so far. The graphical style was really consistent, and cool. The gameplay was engaging and easily understood. And it was such a unique concept. So well executed.

Also it didn't fall into one of my major gripes with a lot of the games that have been submit (especially some of the puzzle types), which is that things just move SO SLOWLY. This game really picked up the pace. You never felt like anything was holding you back besides your own mistakes, which is really the way any game should be.

Excellent game.

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Loved the physics (first post says a lot of what I would), but one small bit of constructive criticism to help pick up the pace of the game:

Perhaps you should decrease some of the amount of "energy" (as it were) required to get to the next level in some of the earlier stages; I felt like I was trapped in Level 1 forever.

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Hmm... curious side effect of turning into a ball is that when you turn back your ship is often flying backwards!

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pushevolve October 8, 2007 3:07 AM

Ok, so no one else had a problem with the delay on going in and out of shield mode? The game is really fun and the concept is unique but if I had a dime for everytime I hit space and nothing happened! If there was a meter or something indicating that you had to wait a second or two before you could re-shield or de-shield that might help a little but as this point it just feels non-responsive. Sill, one of the best in the competition!

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I interpreted what you call the 'unresponsive' shield as being a shield that does not activate if you are touching a blob.

Otherwise it seemed to work for me when I activated it.

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My favorite!

Addicting, perfect difficulty (still cant beat last level!!), Ball physics are awesome, Everything is great!

Love the feeling of , "Oh my gosh! i just dodged impending doom from 5 different directions completely by accident!"

...and then you get smashed into a wall..
:)

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Definitely my favourite game so far and I have liked many. Btw, how many levels are there? I might finish it if I have time.

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littlebum2002 Author Profile Page October 8, 2007 9:11 AM

This game is one of the best so far. The ONLY thing I would change is to improve the turning radius and overall maneuverability of the ship. It feels like I'm driving a dump truck.

Other than that, great game, very fun to play. This is one of the most polished games I have seen so far this competition.

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mindstalker October 8, 2007 9:12 AM

No its definitely unresponsive for me as well as far as turning on and off the shield. Sometimes it works well other times it doesn't. Even when I'm not touching anything. It also seems like everything else is slowing down at those times, as well. So I think its probably a resource issue or something.

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I think everyone here has already expressed my feelings about this one. Great Job!

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mindstalker October 8, 2007 12:36 PM

Upon reloading the shield unresponsiveness went away.

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I like the game. Tremendous polish and beautiful physics for the blobs.

But it just go on and on and on. The levels are really similar, and I don't want to beat my best time. I want to advance to new challenges.

The game being an action game you could have limited lives. Or at least limited lives for each level. That would introduce the concept of difficulty to the game, otherwise it only works as a "beat your friends time"-game. A clock could also put some pressure on the pot.

But the dynamics of the game are excellent. Hey I just made a criticism-sandwich. Something good, something bad, and then something good.

Cheers

btw. Great competition Jay, and thanks for the tags-tip to easily choose between the games.

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Ipsquiggle Author Profile Page October 8, 2007 1:52 PM

Hey, this is Graham. Thanks for all the positive feedback, Aaron and I are really excited!

Freezair: (re: stuck in level 1) Yes, now that we've had a chance to watch some people play, we agree that earlier levels should take less energy to finish.

Dom: (re: flying backwards)

If you are tricky, you can use this to your advantage. While in ball mode, point your ship in the direction you want to head next. Leave ball mode and press forward, and you can take off at a crazy angle.

Mindstalker: (re: sluggish shield) If it does seem to be a performance issue, you can click the 'Q' in the corner to lower the game quality, this should speed things up a bit.

Kupo: (re: how many levels?) There are 24 levels. If you use the 'levels' button from the main menu (the one on the right) you can jump to any level you've completed and see your records, as well.

Once again, thanks everyone for your wonderful comments! :)

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aaroncox1234 Author Profile Page October 8, 2007 1:53 PM

Thanks to everyone for your comments so far. We're planning on releasing an update to Ballonius after the competition, so your feedback is appreciated.

Freezair: The difficulty seems to vary based on luck. Sometimes I've been stuck on Level 1 forever, other times I breeze through it. The same goes for pretty much all the levels. To keep people from getting stuck on levels, I'm planning on increasing the amount of energy you aquire based on how long you've been playing a level.

pushevolve: I've also found the shield to be unresponsive. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to work on it. I'll definitely polish it up for a second release.

Kupo: There are 24 levels. To entice you to finish: we don't just dump you back to the menu when you finish the game, there's a little end game screen.

littlebum2002: We'll definitely tweak the turning speeds. Or just change the ship to look like a dump truck :)

If anyone has any other requests for Ballonius, we're all ears.

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Stunning! Great job :o)

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If anyone has any other requests for Ballonius, we're all ears.

This is a very, very minor thing, but it would be nice if on levels with a big blob the objective didn't disappear inaccessibly inside it for long periods.

Under some circumstances it's possible to play around this by...

...ramming into the smaller anchor point with shields up!

...but it's not very effective. (Or perhaps that should read: I'm not very effective at it!)

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eyepersonic October 8, 2007 4:20 PM

i like it all, but the graphics design specialy are really well accomplished. very seductive little cute game! congratulations

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definatly one of my favourite games so far :)

oh, and the tip which told me that I can only kill the domed bugs if their legs are out... does this mean their legs are a weakness? or just thyat we can only hurt them while they are out, and does this include when they are on a bubble?

its just that I've been smashing the giant one in level 9 for ages (I like to kill the domes before I tackle the level) for night on 5 minutes and nothigns happened.

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Oh man, though, you could use this sort of concept to do all kinds of things. A ballonius adventure game? That'd rule! But the game is so good as it is, with such minor problems... I still keep coming back to it!

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Ipsquiggle Author Profile Page October 8, 2007 5:10 PM

About legs being out (Large Spoiler!):

Yes, the legs themselves are the weakness. If you dive into a ball and poke an enemy from underneath, you'll both explode, but it gets rid of the enemy. You can also take them out while they are floating around with their legs out, by hitting their legs, but this seems to be a little buggy at the moment.

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aaroncox1234 Author Profile Page October 8, 2007 5:17 PM

reapaninja: I must confess to a hack. An hour or so before we submitted the game, we realized that the giant enemies were dying at the start of the levels, which made those levels pretty weak. Solution: we made them invulnerable.

:)

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Cool. Sounds great. The thing I love about these competitions is that they give game creators a chance to polish their work with feedback. Keep up the killer work!

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Shadowxaf Author Profile Page October 8, 2007 8:48 PM

I'd like to see some more audio/visual feedback. Since the shield control can be a little finicky, a more obvious cue that the shields have been activated would be nice.

The engine should glow when I press forward.

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Best overall game so far:

Hot:
- great base gameplay mechanic (shield on/off)
- quality artwork/sound
- nice implementation of physics, specially the balls trying to crush you when you break their connecting beam
- very nice enemy design

Not:
- some levels are too similar amongst each other
- shield activation should be instantaneous on/off
- can't easily tell which way ship is facing when shield is active

Improvments:
- make acceleration more powerfull (quick bursts of sudden speed with more viscosity from the envyronment causing deceleration)

-make spawn shield invulnerable (but dont let the energy beam be collected when it passes over ship inside spawn shield)

-

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wow, i must say.. this is my favorite game out of all of them.

(osmosis is a CLOSE second)

that said, i was able to beat osmosis, but i could NOT beat level 24.

i love the way the physics work in this game.. it definitely gets my adrenaline pumping as i try to navigate through these blobs.. and the way they change from soft to hard, and the way everything works, really.. its just amazing.

i have to say.. i REALLY REALLY enjoyed this game.

BRAVO!

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This is a great game, and my favourite in the competition. It's so simple yet so fun and addictive (but I've yet to win it, I've gotten up to the level with 8-10(forgot which) missile creepers and am having difficulty. My only criticism is that I felt the ball was useless.

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dang. thats my strategy gone :S

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I'm finding it hard to tell what causes damage to the ship. It would be nice if there was some indication each time, rather than just the eventual appearance of a smoke trail.

Other than that, very nice. Interesting concept, good controls, pleasant and unobtrusive graphics and sound.

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Carl Foust Author Profile Page October 10, 2007 2:54 PM

Great game. Those launcher things piss me off.

When I respawn I'd like a big bright indicator of where I am, because now it blends in too well. The spawn sheild looks way too much like a blob. If I'm stuck in a blob I'd also like to know exactly when I've become completey stuck.

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I have to say, this is my favorite so far of all the entries. I especially like the animation for the ship transforming into the ball, the design of the levels and enemies, and the fast-paced nature of the game. For something relatively simple, it is also relatively hard, and relatively better than other slower games. This one gets my vote, but I have only one problem: Occasionally, I click whatever link is given for the game competition, but when it opens, all I hear is the theme music with no visuals. Anyone else with this problem? Thanks!

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Ipsquiggle Author Profile Page October 15, 2007 5:28 PM

New Version of Ballonius! YAAAY!!

Changes include:

  • Better background music.

  • Cleaner menus and instructions.

  • Lots of collision glitches fixed.

  • Improved keyboard handling.

  • Energy beam gets "unstuck".

  • Ship changes state faster.

  • Small graphical improvements and tweaks.

  • Tweaks to player movement.

  • Difficulty tuning.

Enjoy!!!

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Why are all the comments from October 2007?

Also, initial 5 minute play looks promising, will check it out more tomorrow.

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RaydenUni - this game was part of the last Game Design Competition, so a short blurb was written about it back when it debuted. Now the full review is published, but the comments from the original are kept.

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I put off trying this because I didn't expect to enjoy it, but once I started, I didn't want to stop. This is simply beautiful.

I continue to enjoy the music loop, the graphics are charming, and even small details like fading and replacing unreachable energy balls are thoughtfully implemented.

5 Stars!

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Very interesting and fun game. My only gripe is its relative easiness. I just beat the game in 28 minutes 4 seconds without replaying any levels, and the only one I found challenging was the last one (2:55). I'm glad it's not stressful, but still...

On a side note, this 'best games of the year' announcement led me to sign up here. Hi everyone!

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