With a gritty, tech-noir-ish tone and aesthetic, fully-fledged storyline told via sumptuous hand-drawn cutscenes and plenty of pulse-pounding stealth-based action, Playlithium’s thrilling new game, Super Ball Escape (out now, $0.99), turns the rolling-ball genre’s tendency towards the cute and colorful on its head. Think Metal Gear meets Super Monkey Ball and you’re on the right track.
Super Ball Escape sees you, playing as the titular robo-orb, going on the run (or should that be roll?) from the dastardly megacorp that manufactured you and who now want to tear out your emotion chip. Self preservation is the aim of the game as this fugitive droid traverses an Escher-esque network of interconnected walkways suspended high above a futuristic urban sprawl.
Each of Super Ball Escape’s stages tasks you with finding your way out of a complex maze. Making it to the exit unscathed is a three-fold challenge – you must solve a series of ‘this door is locked, find a key’ puzzles, avoid and evade the likes of trigger happy security cams and killer patrol bots while also taking constant care not to hurtle over the edge of a narrow beam and plummet to your demise. If you reckon this sounds rather tricky, you’d be right, so be prepared to die and have to try again a lot.
But while Super Ball Escape, even when played on its least taxing difficulty mode, is no cakewalk, commendably precise tilt controls do ensure that the game never feels unfair or gets overly frustrating. Also on hand to even the score are an array of powerups that can be used to upgrade your rebellious robot with neat special abilities like ‘morphing’ which disguises him as a trash can to trick other robots into delivering him out of harm’s way or ‘shockwave’ that allows you to electrocute and stun enemies.
What I really loved about this game is that it’s entirely up to you whether you choose to play it as a straight up actioner, or opt to sneakily maneuver your way through labyrinthian levels attempting to go undetected. Either way, believe you me, some serious skill and grit is needed to make it through all 12 brilliantly designed and surprisingly lengthy levels.
By and large, Super Ball Escape is, well, pretty gosh-darn super, but it does fall down some in certain areas. The game’s visuals are a tad drab and, due to the top-down PoV, up-in-the-air environments sadly lack the vertigo inducing sense of scale and depth that those of other iOS rolling-ball games (such as the exhilerating Mad O Ball 3D) possess. As tight as the tilt controls are here, it’s also very likely that some players will bemoan the absense of an alternative set-up.
iFanzine Verdict: Addictive, frustrating and satisfying in equal measure, Super Ball Escape will grip you from start to end (if you make it that far!). Highly recommended if you’re after something a little more high-brow and challenging than iOS’ typically cute, casual offerings.