iPad Game Review: Ink Ball HD Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Ink Ball HD is a physics puzzler in the vein of Enigmo or Master of Alchemy. Unfortunately, the monochromatic palette and the unvarying gameplay are likely to make all but the most die-hard fans of this genre lose interest fairly quickly.
The trick to success in Ink Ball HD is to use as little ink as possible to collect the falling ink droplets. You see, the ink that is spilling across the screen is the very same ink that you must use to create the devices necessary to capture the ink balls. The tools at your disposal consist of rigid and elastic bars; both of which you must draw and place yourself in an effort to guide the balls of ink to their inkwell. Drawing extravagant solutions will almost certainly result in capturing a great deal of droplets. However, it will also likely result in a net loss of ink, costing you completion stars and even resulting in level failure. And just to make sure you don?t get too comfortable, the timer relentlessly, inexorably ticks down while you craft your solution. Mercifully, the timer doesn?t begin, and the ink balls don?t start to drop until you draw your first object, giving you time to plan without watching all of your precious ink fall off the bottom of the screen. I was a bit surprised to learn that you only have the previously-listed rigid and elastic bars to work with. This presents an almost crippling lack of variety in the gameplay and severely dampened my enthusiasm for Ink Balls HD within the first half-hour. The in-game achievements available through the Crystal Network help somewhat to keep you pressing onward, however.
Although I am not a fan of rushed or timed puzzles, I am just clever enough to realize that some of you are. If you count yourself among the legion of highly-caffeinated gamers, Ink Balls HD may be your cup of espresso, in spite of the lack of variety in gameplay tools. If you prefer to take your time and ponder, however, or if you just like a bit more to sink your teeth into tool-wise, it would probably be best if you looked elsewhere to get your physics puzzle fix.
The graphics of Ink Balls HD are at once its signature asset and its greatest curse. There is really no other game out there with the graphical style of Japanese calligraphy. Unfortunately, Ink Balls HD is not a calligraphy simulator; it is a physics puzzle game and as such, the gamer isn't interested in creating works of Zen beauty. Instead, he/she is tasked with building Rube Goldberg contraptions. This collision of form and function results in what appears to be messy and inelegant solutions (no matter how elegant) rather than spontaneously created works of art. Further, the monochromatic palette was at least partially responsible for my lackluster feelings toward it. Level after level after level, green and black and green and black and green and black. Lastly, if they were going for a Zen motif they should have made a more Zen-like game because the tense gameplay of Inkballs HD just doesn't match the peaceful art style.
The in-game music matches the graphics perfectly, however, as previously stated, neither match the gameplay. I also found it to be grindingly repetitive after only a short while. The in-game sound effects themselves, are almost nonexistent, consisting mostly of light clicking/plopping sounds.
I found Ink Balls HD to be repetitive in both form and function. Although new obstacles are introduced in later levels, and the puzzles grow more challenging, the player is still only allowed to work with the two tools introduced on level 1. The graphics and the music don't help, as they are themselves the epitome of monotony as well. On a certain level, the game can be appreciated for its original style and simple beauty, however, as a game; it leaves a lot to be desired.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 2 - Original in style, but migraine-inducing over the long haul. Sound: - 1 - repetitive soundtrack and almost nonexistent sound effects. Controls: - 3 - The game controls work as expected for a game of this type. Gameplay: - 2 - All but the most die-hard physics puzzle fans should look elsewhere for their next game.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Oddly, the ink balls will stack perfectly in vertical columns. Use this quirky feature to buy some time setting up your solution.