It’s very easy for developers to create a puzzle game, and have it end up being just like all the others currently circulating the market. However, Chillingo has recently published a new game from a small developer by the name of BoxesGames called Ink Ball HD for iPad. Ink Ball is a physics game that has a simple, but very attractive aesthetic.
A simple physics game of getting an object from Point A to Point B, Ink Ball differentiates itself by tying all of the game mechanics to a single, consumable resource. Players must not only try to resolve the puzzle, but do so in with a finite amount of time and moves. Though beautifully crafted, the pacing and controls often clash, causing timely mistakes that lead to frustrating, accidental failures.
With each puzzle, players are presented with a well of ink and an ink pot. As soon as the user makes their first move, ink will begin dripping from the well. Using only two tools, an elastic and static board, enough drops must be guided to the ink pot in order to succeed, with a score and star rating granted upon completion.
Since players can rotate elastic and static boards to any angle to guide the ink. If they do, the physics will alter accordingly. Elastic boards will cause the drops to bounce, while static ones will merely catch them. As levels progress, players will need to create more elaborate designs and scattered ink blots that absorb each droplet they touch start to appear.
While this sounds familiar, this is where Ink Ball begins to get interesting. Each board consumes ink, from the ink well, to place. Once the first one is moved, the well will begin dripping approximately one drop per second. Since the well has only so much ink, and a certain amount is required to fill the ink pot, players must plan out their positioning well before that first move is made. Not only this, but adjustments must be made quickly and accurately.
This creates a time limit and increases the game’s pacing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but occasionally temperamental controls get in the way of accuracy. For example, if players try to tap a board and move it, a rotate button will appear around it. If they touch and drag the rotate button by accident, it will not only spin the board, but will, for whatever reason or another, expand the rotate prompt.
Why it does this instead of moving the entire board, is hard to understand. If it does have a later use, having it activate on earlier levels is merely obnoxious, since the time it takes to correct this mistake will cost a good number of ink drops.
Challenges are not always as direct as getting from one point to another. In many cases, the level itself provides difficulty with the ink blots, bizarre slopes, and pitfalls. In other cases, movable bars also appear. Most of the time, these are obstacles that block the ink pot in a well, adding the extra task of trying to move it.
The other part of this game worth noting is its visual style. The green-and-yellow color scheme isn’t personally appealing to me, but the entire game takes on the look and feel of a Japanese ink painting. With Asian music and sounds, Ink Ball HD shows how even simple touches be artistically gratifying.
The game also comes with some minor social implementation too. Like most Chillingo published games, the title is connected to the Crystal social gaming network. With friend lists, the network also provides players with access to a very wide variety of unlockable achievements and competitive leaderboards.
Overall, Ink Ball HD has a few control elements that don’t work well with the faster pace of this puzzle game, but it doesn’t hinder the title as a whole. BoxesGames has successfully adapted a traditional puzzle concept and made it much more unique. Coupled with elegant visual design, and it’s one highly recommendable game.