iPad Game Review: SteamBalls HD Reviewed by Shaun Price
How could I resist playing a game with the less-than-glamorous title of SteamBalls HD? In fact, it's another variation of the classic match three game, this time with a decidedly steampunk flavor.
You've seen this before. Match three items of the same color in order to clear them off the screen. However, SteamBalls HD (I never tire of that title) does add several new mechanics into the mix, making it worth a second look. The balls in question (which best resemble billiard balls) are distinguished not only by their color but also by their number. Numbers in this case indicate the relative weight of the ball ? thus, a ball with the number five on it is heavier than one with the number one. At the bottom of the screen is a series of four balancing scales.
Players must guide the balls at the top of the screen to the appropriate side of each scale in order to get three of the same color in a horizontal row. The addition of weight as a factor changes the nature of this type of game tremendously. Getting three in a row ? only horizontally ? means carefully balancing the scales with the appropriate weights and colors simultaneously, a task not always easy to accomplish.
When a match is made, any balls of the same color that are touching that match are evaporated from the board and points are earned (total weight value multiplied by the number of balls). If you stack up 5 balls of the same color (vertically) then they collapse into a single ball with the weight value of the 5 balls combined. In addition to the colored balls, SteamBalls also has 12 other ?extra? balls. Each of these balls has a different purpose such a changing the colors of balls or destroying certain balls or increasing the value of matches. This adds an interesting angle to the game.
SteamBalls HD is not only fun to play, but it?s beautifully designed. The game has a nice wood background and the game itself has gears spinning very smoothly in the background. The balls are designed to look like pool balls and they sound like pool balls when they make contact with each other. SteamBalls was not quickly thrown together; it is clear that a lot of thought went into its design.
Controls work well, and the developers have stayed true to the steampunk idea by making all controls knobs and buttons you manipulate virtually on screen. While this works from a thematic point of view, it doesn?t make as much use of the iPad?s touch screen as it could, and it would have been nice if the balls and scales could be moved and adjusted using fingers rather than virtual controls.
The background music it's nice at first, and really fits the style, but it's a short loop and it gets repetitive very quickly. The background music that plays when you first open the game has a vaguely Victorian feel to it, but what plays during the game itself seems anachronistic. The concept behind SteamBalls HD is clever, but it simply doesn?t seem as fully realized as it could be. The SoundFX within the game are very charming when the balls hit each other to the sounds that each special piece makes when use.
If you are looking for a new spin on the old match three genres, SteamBalls HD might be up your alley. However, there?s a limit to how many games can be produced from this already worn concept. It?s time for developers to give us something truly new. If you want to check out the game without buying it first, there is a free version.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Steampunk look and feel, clever design execution. Sound: - 3.5 - Great background music when you first start playing but gets boring quickly, SoundFX charming but limited. Controls: - 4.5 - Touch controls very accurate, does not fully utilize the touch screen. Gameplay: - 5 - Great three pair match game, very interesting concept.
Playing Hints and Tips:
- Match the balls horizontally not vertically! - - Have another source of music while playing SteamBalls HD