Absolute Awesome Ball Game
I'm an old-school pinballer from days long gone by. Yes, the days before video games and even before the arcade; days when "rec hall" usually meant the presence of a pool table, a juke box and (if I was lucky) a glorious pinball machine. So, you can imagine my delight when the "ball physics" theme of our recent competition produced a couple of enjoyable pinball games, and one of them even walked away with the 2nd place prize ($1,000 and Adobe Flash CS3 license).
The aptly named Absolute Awesome Ball Game (AABG) by Felix Reidl is truly awesome because it manages to capture the thrill of discovery that we look for from pinball games and delivers that in an addictive, unique and appealing package, though it might not be very apparent at first. The game requires a bit of patience and perseverance before seeing any visible progress, but those that stick with it are in for a very pleasant and enjoyable ride.
The main objective is to succeed at each of 10 mini-games contained in the game. The mini-games appear based on conditions that must be met using the balls in play. Figuring out how to make them appear is part of the discovery element to the game, and part of the reward for your efforts, so I won't spoil any of those details in this review. Before you even think about finding the mini-games, however, you will have to sort out how to light up the board and to earn points, which is a necessary first step to making any real progress in AABG.
The playing field starts off dark and unassuming with the only clues being a list of "Combos" around the hole on the left side of the play field, each one comprised of 3-colors (read left to right). These represent collisions that you must make with balls on the play field, in order. For example, blue-green-pink means a blue ball must collide with a green ball and a green ball must then collide with a pink ball, and all during a single shot.
Shooting is straightforward and intuitive using a combination of mouse and keyboard: Select the desired ball to shoot by clicking on it; click-drag with the mouse to select the power of the shot; move the mouse to adjust the angle of the shot; press [space bar] to fire. You may only shoot balls that are highlighted with a white ring around them.
Your first plan of attack should be to get a few different colored balls available on the play field with which to make combos, and then begin to chip away at the combos you see listed. Once all combos in a color-group are achieved, something special will happen. Make your next plan of attack one of scoring points, because with points come bonus balls, and more balls make everything in this game just a whole lot more fun.
Analysis: With its rather modest (initial) appearance, and gameplay that is a bit slow to ramp up in excitement, it might be easy for some to pass on AABG altogether. But those who dig a little deeper than what's on the surface will find an extraordinarily addictive game underneath. AABG succeeds in delivering the thrill of discovery and the reward structure of pinball games, and delivers all that in a unique Flash game that is packed with fun.
Improvements that I'd like to see in a future version include: (1) Better feedback to the player regarding the completion of a combo in progress. There is presently no feedback regarding combos until after one is completed, which yields a point value appearing over the 2nd collision once the combo is achieved. I believe this may be the single most important issue that divides those who "get it" and those who don't. If the feedback issue could be improved upon, I believe the game could enjoy an even greater audience. (2) An integrated save mechanism is also needed since a single game can last for many hours, or even several days. As it is now I have to leave the game window open and come back to it for a couple hours at a time. This works because I can leave my computer on 24/7, but it may not be as convenient for others. And, (3) a colorblind option to improve the game's accessibility to those with difficulty differentiating color. A simple symbol or texture option for the balls and color indicators on the board would be a welcome improvement.
All things considered, Absolute Awesome Ball Game is highly addictive, a wonderful achievement, and a fantastic entry into our "ball physics" competition earning it the 2nd Place prize. Thanks and congratulations Felix!
dancemonkey - This game was a bit of an enigma, more so than any of the other games I played in this competition. The ball physics theme was one of the strongest in the competition, and I just love pinball. I have to admit though, to this day I'm still not sure I quite know what the heck I'm doing when I play. Don't get me wrong, the game is fun, and I can tell something is going on. I can even tell that there's some underlying logic to it all, though I've never quite been able to figure out exactly what that is. The game was never dull though, and trying to decipher the game's underlying rules is clearly three-quarters of the challenge. Absolute Awesome Ball Game is exciting and interesting, and is never the same game twice!
zxo - If pinball is your passion, then Absolute Awesome Ball Game should be right up your alley! You won't realize it at first, but there are loads of features just waiting to be unlocked if you have the skills and the patience (with an emphasis on the patience). Unlike pinball, you don't need to have good aim or reflexes to become a master, just a good sense of angles. I found the physics unrealistically elastic, but that's actually a plus for AABG, providing even more of a pinball feel and helping facilitate those necessary ball collisions.