An entry from Dom Camus (The Turtles of Time) into our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, Ballrooms plays more or less like a standard table-top pinball game with an added element of exploration. Really, it's a pinball adventure game where you earn points, grab power-ups, and travel between boards via a network of warp holes. The end result is a pinball universe that's as much flipper pounding as it is exploration.
Ballrooms has several control setups available, one of which utilizes the [WASD] keys for flipper control and the [spacebar] for power-ups. The [A] and [D] keys move the left and right flippers respectively, while [S] activates special flippers and [W] bumps the table. Flippers aren't always placed at the bottom center as on a normal pinball table, but it's usually quite intuitive to see which key moves which flipper.
Bouncing around the various tables in Ballrooms, you'll hit the usual set of switches and buttons that will net you points. You'll also come across warp tunnels and power-ups, which is where things get very interesting. Green-rimmed holes lead to new tables, and exploring the whole Ballroom universe is absolutely something you'll want to do. Power-ups range from boosters, quick-save moves, point multipliers, and so on, all of which are activated with a tap of the [spacebar].
Analysis: With a solid concept and engaging presentation, Ballrooms doesn't skimp on entertainment value. After spending some time with the game, however, you'll begin to pick up on a few minor shortcomings that stand in the way of a better experience. My biggest issue was with the gravity. Some readers referred to the game as having "springy" walls, but it seemed to me as if I was playing pinball on the moon. The actual physics of the ball's bouncing and trajectory seemed spot-on, but the crazy ball just bounced way too high and with too much power. On a typical pinball table I can direct a ball with a fair degree of accuracy to a target, but in Ballrooms I was consistently frustrated by the ball flying like a rocket off a flipper to the exact same spot every time, despite my attempts at timing the shot differently.
I also felt that each room, or "table", was just too small, and some made it extremely difficult to hit all the targets. I think this may have boiled down to a limitation of the medium, but I would have really liked to see a more robust, almost full-size pinball table for each room, allowing for a truly epic pinball exploration bonanza. The rooms as they are now are simply too small and don't last long enough for me to develop any emotional interest in them (yes, you can develop emotional interest in pinball!).
I have to say that despite the game's flaws, it's fantastic fun to play. The concept is brilliant, and I think Dom was simply limited by the time constraints of the competition and the technical limitations of Flash. He did a great job of theming each room with beautiful background artwork, though he could have extended that to the foreground elements as well and it would have gone a long way. Dom mentioned working on a sequel, which is obviously a great idea, but I can honestly see this concept working as a complete PC or console title. That would allow Dom the freedom to include photo-realistic graphics, larger tables, and more robust and detailed obstacles.