Sunday, April 12, 2009

MothBallz Review


What an odd game. Not that odd is a bad thing, but I just spent about an hour shooting balls out of a big red trash can with the intent of killing moths (mothz?), but not breaking light bulbs that they like to fly very close to. Right of course.

Concept aside, this is sort of "canon" type game where you arc your shots to hit targets (moths) while avoiding friendlies (lightbulbs). You can angle the big red trash can and adjust the power of the shot. What put me off from the get-go was that the targeting/power system was a bit wonky and hard to the get hang of. The game uses a cross hair to show you were you're aiming and with how much power, but the cross hair disappears when you're not adjusting. (hmmmm)

Meanwhile the moths are hovering around the light bulbs and you're essentially waiting for them to move away from the light (briefly) so you can take your shot. Sometimes they flutter around the bulb so close the shot is basically impossible. It takes some getting used to, but I did get better with practice.

The look of the game is quite tight, albeit highly simplistic. The light bulbs sway and give off a nice glow until you accidentally smash them, the moths flutter around until you squish them, and the various balls you use bounce around nicely with believable physics. The developer went light on the music/SFX, just the bare essentials - not really adding or taking away from the gameplay.
What should be commended is the large amount of unlockables and some cool back end features. The game keeps a nice stat page, tracking all of your shots (for better or worse) and you can unlock tons of different balls that act differently, providing advantages in certain situations. So as you unlock new ammo, you can load up your barrel accordingly. I also enjoyed the simple commentary including a abrasive "fail" whenever a light bulb is broken. Ouch.

One big issue I had was something that I can tell the developer struggled with. After firing, I was waiting way too long after every shot to watch my ball bounce around and finally stop, often times drooling and dozing off in the meantime. So I finally got frustrated, re-checked the controls, and saw that I could actually skip to my next shot by hitting trigger again. Good thinking. Unfortunately, I believe this leads to an exploit...

You can actually cease your shot mid-fire. That means you can avoid all repercussions of a bad shot, and all ricochet mishaps (often a bad bounce would smash a bulb). If your shot looks bad just cancel it and fire again - and make sure to cancel the shot before it can ricochet, because the moth-kills still count. I was even able to hit a moth that was directly in front of a light bulb, then cancel the shot before it followed through to 'fail' and then moved on the next level. Maybe this was intended (or there was no good middle ground), but the game became MUCH easier after that realization.

All and all, it's actually a pretty addicting game with a quirky concept. There's just a couple flaws that heavily detracted the fun factor for me (namely the aiming system and the waiting for the moths to not be sitting on the bulbs). It's a game that requires some patience, something many of us are unfortunately missing. I did like the unlockable ammo and wish I had more chance to test out more new ballz.

I'd suggest giving this demo a whirl if any of the above positives hit home, because the full version (400 MP) could offer a good amount of playtime. I'd recommend this to people who like aim-and-fire type games because this is good twist on that niche genre. Also those whole love ballz, or hate moths.

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