|System: Wii (WiiWare)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Virtual Toys||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Virtual Toys||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 14, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Out of all game genres, puzzle games seem to contain the most potential for addiction. It's one thing to go through an adventure game or an RPG after unlocking new modes of play. But puzzle games, if they're designed well enough, get a hold on people that's not easily broken-which speaks a lot to the typically simple to learn, not-so-simple to master game design so often seen in them. All the best puzzlers are famous for a certain kind of beckoning, teasing challenge that baits you into believing you can quickly become a master of its various rules and regulations (and even loopholes); that's what keeps you playing. But not all puzzle games are created equal.
Unfortunately, Virtual Toys' SpaceBall: Revolution falls short of reaching its full potential. The game works well enough as a momentary distraction, but there just isn't enough of interest to keep all but the most diehard puzzle fans playing for more than a few rounds. That's a pity, because the game design is promising at its core. Essentially, SpaceBall is played on a square grid of tiles that light up when you throw a spaceball (which looks and sounds a lot like a dodgeball, except silvery and metallic) at them. In the top left corner of the screen there's a box with a lighted pattern displayed in it, and it's your job to recreate the pattern on the grid. Think of lighting up squares to create Tetris pieces and you have the general idea.
The Wii-mote's on-screen pointer is used to aim your spaceball's shot, with one hit lighting up a square on the grid and another to turn it off. Trick shots can also be employed by aiming the pointer at the grid lines, which can either activate two adjacent squares or a grid of four squares when hitting a line or intersection, respectively. Furthermore, each pattern challenge that's displayed is timed, and if you fail to complete it before the time runs out, the screen pulls back (a finite number of times, at that), effectively obscuring your vision and making it harder to aim precision shots (of which the game requires quite a bit).
At first, things are easy. You have a three by nine grid to work with. You can rack up combos without difficulty by using as few balls as possible to complete patterns. Multipliers are also easily racked up for hitting your intended target on the grid. For now, everything's aces-but of course things don't stay this simple for long. Like many puzzlers, the challenge in SpaceBall comes from obstacles, and boy, are there a lot of 'em.
They start out in relatively mundane forms: moving cubes that circle the grid and can block your shot and other simple obstructions. Then they get trickier. The cubes become stationary, floating above the certain squares of the grid. In order to get under them, you have to aim your ball at the sides of the arena where the grid lies, angling your shot so that the ricochet hits the square tile underneath the cube. Then the barriers get bigger. They start rotating. They come in larger and smaller sizes and come in odd, oblong shapes. They even start to move higher and lower in the arena, turning into rings and strange blocks reminiscent of the colored ones you might have played with as a kid. They get holes in them and become invisible and multiply and do all kinds of ridiculous things as the levels mount. Before the game is over, the entire grid will periodically rotate and even launch its own balls. And you have to contend with all of this while the timer for each pattern challenge ticks down. That's all well and good.
But, aside from the near constant change-ups of what's potentially blocking your pattern-finishing shot (or shots), there's little that changes over the course of SpaceBall's 15 levels. After playing for awhile, I started wondering when the level grids would expand to an area larger than three by nine; although this eventually did happen, the change took more time than I would have imagined, and it remains one of the few sources of variety seen in the game's mechanics, outside of the mercurial nature of the game's obstruction design.