Jul 21, 2010

Pac-Ball Full

Pac-Ball bills itself as the fusion of those old tilt-to-control labyrinth puzzles and the arcade favorite known as Pac Man. I think that's pretty fair, although I'd say it's about 70/30 labyrinth. In this game you are Pac-Ball and have to traverse the maze gobbling up all of the dots all the while being chased by four ghosts Androids. Be careful, if they get a lock on you they speed up, but you can easily roll away, and to help your cause there are, scattered throughout the maze, special dots (power pills?) that turn the tables and allow you to crush the Androids.

Pac-Ball's graphics are pretty basic and consist of a maze, tiny Androids and a little ball representing you. It works, but this isn't going to be the game you use to show off your Android's graphics. Sound, likewise, is simple. A ping every time you eat a dot... a boom every time you are destroyed... and a steady blip-blip as the timer on your 'turning the tables' comes to a close. Controlling Pac-Ball is done via either tilt or the touch screen. The game defaults to, and is meant to be played by, tilt. I find it interesting that when calibrating the game instructs one to "Lay Device on a Flat Surface and Press Calibrate". Do people really play this such that they have to tilt out of view in order to move up the screen? There's also a sensitivity control with higher values seemingly meaning that there's less resistance / friction as the ball travels throughout the maze. And, of course, you can alternatively play where you touch in the direction you want Pac-Ball to go and as much as I wouldn't do that with this game it is always nice to have options.

The game also has three modes of play (standard Pac Man style, a variant where your goal is to light up all of the gates instead of getting all of the dots, and a survival mode in which you just try and stay alive) and three difficulty levels.

I have to admit that when I first started playing Pac-Ball I was less than impressed. I think that's because of two things: a) I was excepting more Pac-Man than labyrinth and b) I needed to calibrate the controls to my liking before starting to enjoy it. After playing a few times it has grown on me as a good alternative to the existing labyrinth style games although I still prefer Pac Man. I think one of the things that really got me is how the ball is less wide than the maze's passages. Consequently, not only are you moving through the passages, but you also have some play to bump into the walls which can slow you down. Racing down a straightaway is fast, but turning corners can be slow. I also think this game could benefit and possibly be excellent with a better presentation. The core game play is pretty solid here, but with better audio... cuter animations... intermissions... etc this game could really blossom. 4/5 stars.

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