Super Pixel Ball by Zakaos is a retro-styled indie game self-described as Super Mario Bros. meets Marble Madness. Can this new fandangled title live up to the names of which it was described? I'm Olly023 and I'm about to find out!
Being the contributor here on RetroGameGeeks to conduct the interview with the man behind the game, it makes sense for moi to do the follow-up review! After all, Megatron has a fear of muscle memory and speed that would only be an incredibly heightened from this little gem.
I fell in love almost immediately when the in-game music (available from 0.5 update onwards) cut in alongside that gorgeous Atari-esque pixel look. Bingo! It's all rather simple looking and feeling. But if you're like me, you'll most certainly dig that. I am someone who can spend hours staring at a screen waggling my joystick playing Yars Revenge. Its a very similar feel here and while new keeps that warm familiarity with all things retro.
Controls are intuitive and take you back to the days of only needing a joystick with one button. You move left when you hit left, you move right when you hit right and the button...Well, it jumps. D'uh! Just what you want, just what you need. No faults. Unfortunately this review lacks the capabilities of hooking up an Atari controller, but he does have a PS3 controller that can emulate the X360 gamepad (a PC standard, obviously). So that's what I went with. Considering Zakchaos stated on the SPB site that its capable of gamepad use claiming being tested with the X360 one, I can at the very least confirm the PS3 pad works flawlessly.
The objective of the game is as simple as the controls and art-direction. Genre wise, an arcade puzzle-platformer; you seek to navigate (often at high-speeds) from one end of the level to the other in an attempt to find the exit in the fastest time with the least amount of deaths. On first play through, I noticed when stage 3 hit there was a sudden steep learning curve. As soon as those large platforms arrive and you have fear of the flames below, that's it, maaan. It's a lot of trial and error, plus a focus on that muscle memory kind of play reminiscent of the original arcade titles that laid the groundwork for all future video games. Despite the historical leanings, it obviously wont be for everyone, but is a design I personally enjoy due to the rewarding nature. On a more contemporary standing it'd be fair to to compare to the likes of Super Meat Boy and co. from the big boys on XBLA within the indie world here.
Providing you've got a log-in, you're able to gain trophies and climb the leaderboard through gamejolt.com to fulfill the need to show-off to all your buddies that, yeah; you're better than them! Alas, if you need some private time, you can just as easily start the game without logging in and playing without leaderboards on.
To make the review fair and balanced, it is my journalistic duty to point out whatever flaws I can find. Although, those I have found aren't game-breaking nor are they to a point of pure annoyance. The first is that there's a few bugs/glitches here and there. Moments where your Ball will just quit for a couple milliseconds can be slightly off-putting, but again that is very slight and likely to be fixed in upcoming revisions. The other thing that bugged me at first but became endearing is how the timer will often shoot off matching the physics of the game. It only becomes a pain when you're defiantly attempting to beat the clock and have eyes shifty like a hawk.
Other changes I would like to see brought in for future revisions are mainly to do with possible offline leaderboards and more music. Besides that, I'm rather happy with it, must be said!
Super Pixel Ball is above all else: FUN! That's what video game's should be, in my opinion; so it exceeds. Some of the speeds you can build up when zooming across a maze will have you holding your breath and rocking the edge of your seat. Can I make that jump?! GOTTA MAKE THAT JUMP!! It can get seriously intense and the more you falter or die, the more you want to push forward. Addictive is the word of the day here, kids!
When the game introduces ramps, trampolines and Bully Balls to the mix the frustration and fun equally rises and continues the learning curve naturally. If you mess up, it's your own damn fault - to quote an underrated comedy flick. It's new mechanics that introduce slight change-ups in the game that keep it fresh, but the Ball remains a constant with just the surrounding world changing. A leopard don't change its spots and a balls gonna roll, son.
If you're a big fan of old school arcade games, then you owe it to yourself to spend some time with this one. For $0.05, why the heck not!? It'll have you glued in a way that you thought only retro could, while giving you pleasure in the knowledge that the originals haven't been forgotten in an industry where photorealism and sweeping orchestral scores are now the norm. I like it!
Overall 7 out of 10
Verdict:- Available to purchase for "less than a cup of coffee", you know you should be all over this game outta principle. Its cheap and cheerful, I fully recommend picking it up. Sassy chiptune grooves, cool throwback art style and enough rage-turn-relief when struggling through certain stages that the payoff feels worthwhile with its addictive early arcade style gameplay.
You have to keep the context in tow when you're reviewing an indie game like this, which is exactly what I've attempted in the scores with this one. It may have been released in 2013, but it would have been just as happy to be in a dank corner in an upright cabinet back in 1983.
It's for these reasons I recommend you give it a chance. You could be falling in love with a forgotten feel all over again. Quite simply put: Super Pixel Ball is super fun!
Second Opinion:- Transbot enjoys the finer things in life but when you see something fun on the cheap that provides relatively decent thrills, Transbot is all over that, too.
A decent little arcade puzzler and worth the price of admission, just don't go expecting Legend of Zelda.
Transbot Scores:- 6 out of 10