Posted on by Phil Harris

Switchball follows in the footsteps of the great Marble Madness. Guide your ball through a variety of obstacles to reach the finish point. That game and its predecessors are loosely based on childhood toys where you sent balls through different puzzles by titling the box to control the ball movement. It’s a very simple premise and it works with the virtual world allowing the game to extend “beyond the box”.

In fact, early on, the game will bring a smile to your lips. The images are crisp and clear, the ball moves like you’d expect and the sounds of ball as it bounces down wooden steps or rolls across a bumpy surface is a joy. You could easily think about getting it out at the next party or at a family gathering [not a wake -Ed] to keep everyone entertained as a gentle learning curve progresses through the first world.

Unfortunately this offer of candy is short lived and as you move out of hiding to taste the Child-Catcher’s wares then POP!; you’re in the cage. Switchball isn’t quite that bad but in the second world that gentle curve has already adapted into quite a stiff climb. Complete this and the game becomes ridiculously unbalanced as childishly simple becomes desperately hard in a matter of seconds.

Background tunes that once seemed like inoffensive lift music start to grate, as if you’ve been stuck between floors with someone with particularly bad BO in the middle of summer, mocking the fact you can’t get the level done. To say it loses its charm is an understatement.

It desperately does try to rake it back though. Different generators can “switch” your balls form to the heavy metal ball, the light air ball or the power ball which can jump, speed burst and magnetise. Each of these powers combines to add other ways for the player to crack the solution to a problem. These are usually neatly designed too, but fail to break the stupid highs and lows of difficulty in some element of their completion.

In the later levels you do find yourself trying again and again but end up giving up in disgust as the controls that so easily worked with you earlier now seem to be twisted against you. Where the three different camera choices helped earlier – the auto camera which should be giving you the most helpful view of the ball becomes a painful chore, the chase cam’ doesn’t let you see the surroundings you need and this leaves you with the manual camera which is hard to alter when you’re trying to balance on a particularly tricky section.

Let’s not even talk Sixaxis controller here (given the PS3 version we reviewed) which operates as efficiently as a seaside ride donkey without legs. It becomes heinously complex with some motions being highly exaggerated whilst others fail to generate anything more than a wobble. You may even think that function is broken as you try and contort yourself to wrest control of the ball. Don’t worry it isn’t; it’s just shit.

In all what you’re left with is a bad taste. Not awful, not unbearable, just bad. It’s not that the game is terrible but that it offered so much more to start with and then harshly snatched it away whilst seemingly slapping you on the back offering mindless platitudes for playing. It doesn’t help that given the virtual world there aren’t numerous ways to complete a level rewarding the player for their ingenuity.

If you were infuriated with the childhood toys then you can relive that aggravation here but if you enjoyed them then there’s times Switchball may stimulate you but always be ready to be bitten in the back.


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