Released just a few days ago, TBA Two is the sequel to the well-received action game TBA, developed by John Cooney (jmtb02.com). Fans might remember TBA as the ultra-fast-paced, eye-popping, ball-shooting game with an insane techno soundtrack, all of which blended together quite nicely to create a surprisingly simple and fun game. TBA Two grows from the same roots as its predecessor; just hit [space] to launch the ball through a series of "basket launchers" to the goal, collecting stars along the way. On its main menu screen, the developer wrote of the game, "TBA has no meaning. It came out of confusion." While the game itself isn't confusing, you might find yourself agreeing with its developer that the TBA series doesn't offer much substance in the way of plot or story, but that doesn't keep this sequel from taking you on one hell of a fun ride.
As mentioned, the space bar is the only key you'll need. This launches your ball from the starting basket to the next, from that basket to the next, and so on and so forth. Baskets have different properties to them. Some are completely static and only point to one direction. Others rotate 360 degrees, stopping at each axis for a brief moment to let you launch the ball in the direction you choose. Others will rotate and launch the ball in its own direction regardless of what you do. Luckily the color and patterns of these different baskets are each unique, so it shouldn't take you long to memorize the function of each one.
Your goal is pretty simple and relies on just two objectives; get your ball from its starting point to the goal (the red basket) as fast as possible, and collect as many stars as you can on the way. If you accidentally shoot the ball into a wall, it "dies" (resets). Scoring is based purely on time, which is measured in seconds. Each level has a par to it (12 seconds or less, for example) so you can judge your skill. However, you don't need to hit par to move on to the next level, although you always have the option of coming back later and trying again.
So that pretty much covers the obligatory info for those of you who haven't played the first TBA. Now let's dive in and take a look at how this sequel compares to the original, and why it took the developer weeks to create as opposed to just a few days, as he did with the original. TBA Two was designed with more of a progression/reward system than the first. Instead of just individual progressing levels, there are at least seven different "realms," all containing a handful of levels. There's no skipping around this time; you've got to move from realm to realm in a linear direction, with the difficulty increasing in each realm. As a twist, you can't just blindly blast through the levels to keep progressing. Each realm needs to be unlocked by spending a certain number of stars (the same stars that you collect on the way to the goal of each level). Since the fastest route to the goal won't always let you collect a star, you've got to bust out a bit of puzzle-solving prowess in order to figure out how to collect stars and still make it to the goal as quick as you can.
Graphically-speaking, TBA Two surpasses its original in several ways. Each realm introduces a new photographic-meets-CGI background, as opposed to the original's simple cloud background with varying shades of color. The game takes place on an island, and each realm takes you to a different area within the island. From beaches to jungles to caves, there's a great amount of diversity here that rewards you a fresh background in each realm.
The techno soundtrack offers a separate track for each realm as well, which is a nice upgrade from the original. Those of you who might have been annoyed by the Happy Hardcore techno song that accompanied the original will be pleased to know that there's much more variety in the TBA Two's soundtrack, composed by Mohammad Ahmed Fikree. On the other hand, if you loved the 200+ bpm, finger-twitching track of the original, you might be a little let down by some of the more down-tempo tracks in TBA Two.
Analysis: Any way you cut it, TBA Two is a successful upgrade in virtually all aspects of its original. The backgrounds are prettier and more eclectic, the soundtrack is diverse, the level progression system has matured and most importantly, there's more fun to be had with all new levels and even some new game mechanics. The game auto-saves your progress, and there's even a new "achievements" section which serves as a trophy room for completing various feats, such as beating a level in less than five seconds (and ironically, things like dying within two seconds). The break-neck speed of TBA Two may slow down your FPS if you're running an older machine, or if you're browser doesn't have access to enough free RAM. If you're having trouble, right-click anywhere on the screen to bring up a menu allowing you to reduce its graphic quality, among a few other handy shortcuts like restarting a level or muting the sound.
If you're a fan of the original, it's a safe bet you're going to love this sequel. If you've never played the original, it's a game that's definitely worth checking out.