While there are a lot of platforming games on iOS, most of them are automated side-scrollers (like Chop Chop Runner) where all jumps are done with a single tap. Chillingo, however, has recently released a new platformer, developed by Russian outfit RedBall Studio, that is a little more traditional called Red Ball 3 for both the iPhone and iPad devices. In fact, this $1.99 is ranked at #39 on the top paid iPad apps list as well.
In the game, players must jump in complicated and creative ways to get from one end of the map to the other. Each level hosts obstacles that ought to be familiar to fans of the platforming genre (such as pressing a button to temporarily lower a bridge). However, the physics-oriented nature of Red Ball 3 gives players a few good curveballs. In fact, since the game follows physics so closely, it makes many jumps as well as basic movement incorrigibly obnoxious.
So the player avatar of “Red Ball” is in love with another pig-tailed female ball, and “Black Ball” is jealous. In a classic Mario fashion, Black Ball kidnaps the hero’s girlfriend and its off to save the day by traveling through yet another dangerous terrain on iOS.
Players are presented with 20 relatively short levels with the goal being to reach a flag at the end. Using basic tap controls, players can only move and jump, so most of the entertainment value is derived from the level layouts themselves. Standard platforming dangers are present such as pitfalls and spikes, but rather than dealing with a set number of lives, players simply earn a score based on their performance; losing points every time they die or manually reset to a checkpoint.
Red Ball 3 would be a bit boring with just jumps, so Chillingo has incorporated a mixture of classic and original platforming challenges. An example of a more traditional challenge is that players will often have to hit a switch or button that will trigger an elevator to work, a bridge to descend, or some platform to appear for a limited time. Other times, users will have to move an object atop a button or platform, or they’ll have to avoid swinging axes, falling boulders, or ride on a runaway mine cart.
As for the more creative mechanics, these are derivative of the game’s physics incorporation. With this, players will often find themselves launching off of ramps (they are a ball after all), knocking over pieces of wood, or even using their own buoyancy to spring out of water. Unfortunately, the physics integration also causes a good deal of grief as well.
The true obnoxiousness comes from the fact that the game’s main character, Red Ball, is decidedly bouncy. Yes, he’s a ball, we get it. However, there are a number of precision jumps that require speed, and when the player is moving quickly, Red Ball tends to make little hops and bounces when he hits even the slightest bump. When this happens, players can’t hit the jump button accurately and will fail multiple times. What makes matters worse, is that the hops are, often times, so small that it isn’t even noticeable right away, and simply leaves the impression that the jump button is being unresponsive.
The last note worth highlighting about Red Ball 3 is that, like so many other recent iOS games, there are trios of stars to collect throughout each level. Each one is difficult to reach, and while collecting them is not always necessary for completion of a level, they do add significantly to one’s final score. Also, since the game is score based, players can participate in leaderboards via both Game Center and the Crystal social gaming network. Of course, this means unlockable achievements are also present.
In the end, Red Ball 3 is an average platformer title that has some quality level design. With both classic and original platforming mechanics utilizing physics, the game can be fun from time to time. Unfortunately, the physics integration can work against the player by reducing the precision with which they can control the game. Overall, this is a game that is may only be enjoyed by fans of the platforming genre. For those that are not, Red Ball 3 is probably best to pass on.