[Every Wednesday Gamer Limit will highlight an indie title: from the iPhone to the Xbox Live Arcade!]
Ever play Pong?
Imagine Pong on crack – with lasers – and an unrelenting barrage of enemies ready to smash their balls into your face.
Intrigued? Read on.
The concept behind Revenge of the Ball, an Xbox Live Indie Game, is interesting: after years of being battered, bruised, bonked, and beaten in thousands upon thousands of Pong-like games, the balls have decided to team up to take down their oppressors, the Paddle People.
OK, so I made up the name Paddle People. I like it. It fits.
The controls are classically simple. Up moves up, and down moves down. That’s it! The rest of the game is old-school, hardcore, reflex-testing.
You, a paddle, scoot up and down the left side of the playfield, trying to keep three, five, even eight balls in play at the same time. You have a life bar at the top of the screen that depletes when you miss a ball or get shot by a laser. Did I mention the balls have lasers?
There are many varieties of balls: red balls shoot straight ahead, orange balls fire a double-barreled spread shot, purple balls release a solid stream of destructive goodness, and the green balls (which most players will probably never get to see) are the most dangerous of the bunch. Finally, blue balls… were not included. Probably to keep reviewers from making stupid jokes about them. Bravo.
Different colored balls inflict different amounts of damage. So, when two balls are flying towards your face at the same time (a not-uncommon occurrence in this game), you have to choose which one to block, and which one to take like a man. This adds some quick-thinking strategy to an already frenzied game.
When you first boot up Revenge of the Ball, funky techno-trance music pounds out of your speakers. It sets a PERFECT tempo for the ridiculousness to follow. Also, the background images are beautiful. Just beautiful. And they get better and better the longer you are able to play, like Zoop on the old 16-bit systems.
The flow of the game reminds me (a lot) of Lumines on the PSP. First, the pumping soundtrack. Second, you have to restart at level one every time you die. Third, it gets HARD. The trial goes up to level five, and it’s totally survivable. At level six, you start to die. At level seven, you’ll be down to almost zero life. By level eight, you’ll probably be done for.
There are thirty-two levels. Good luck.
At least you restore about 50% of your health between levels. But there is just so much coming at you at any given second… you won’t win; you can only survive. Maybe.
The actual gameplay never gets any more complicated than that. It’s just a brutally hard game that doesn’t want you to win, while simultaneously making you dance to the sweet beats.
Unfortunately, it suffers from the same problem a lot of other Indie Games have: the leaderboards don’t work! They are empty except for my lone score on both the Local and Global Leaderboards. And, what’s worse, you only get your top score entered. I guess that keeps the ‘boards from getting too cluttered, but come on! At least let us keep track of all our pitiful scores on our local board!
In the end, Revenge of the Ball is definitely worth your dollar (80 Microsoft Points). It is a flaming pile of brutal retro action that makes no apologies for what it is, but the high difficulty will most likely alienate more than a few people. Forget the PS1 Pong remake; THIS is the future of ball-smacking goodness. You can download it here on Xbox Live Indie Games.
Score: 8 out of 10