Created by two-person development team Doppler Interactive, Ball of Woe at first glance resembles Super Monkey Ball or even perhaps Kula World, but it has its own unique flavour through its touch controls. While tricky to grasp at first, the concept of tapping the screen to maneuver the ball quickly clicks. Finger taps on the screen are represented as a variety of ‘puffs’ which come in different shapes and sizes. The only noticeable benefit from acquiring new puffs is that they have a wider area when placed ahead of the ball to stop it.
The game plays like an endless runner, but that’s just a presumption because the game is also pretty difficult. Even with a week or so of playing, it’s a genuine challenge to advance. Ball of Woe takes place in the skies. The only means of progression is by ascending squares of land, and each square passed amasses woe, which acts as the game’s currency. Woe can also be collected through treasure chests and knocking into certain non-playable characters along the way. Of course, there is also the option to pay real money as well.
For the most part, the controls work well. You have a general idea of where you want the ball to go. Tapping behind the ball will shift it forward, and tapping several times will increase the height and velocity the ball will travel. It takes a little time to master, and certain objects, which act as barriers, tend to get the ball stuck; but it works and the game never plays unfairly.
There is a lot to like about Ball of Woe; the story is interestingly executed, the game is fun and has a fair challenge, the visual design has a charming appeal yet has slight, subtle dark undertones, and overall the game feels like a solid product. At the same time, Ball of Woe has a few major issues that make it unappealing – and it’s mainly things outside the core gameplay. The game is all too happy to remind you every five minutes how much items cost and how far you are from having enough currency to purchase them. It notifies you constantly that extra woe can be sold for real money. It’s another case of developers completely missing the point of the in-app purchasing (IAP) system. Regardless of it being EA or a small development team like Doppler Interactive, the fact still remains: I don’t want to have your IAP’s shoved in my face.
Several practices that Ball of Woe uses can cause the player to grow weary. For instance, every time you fall off the side and start over, you are taken back to the inventory selection screen. It is annoying to not have the ability to restart instantly for two reasons: a) it breaks the flow of the game and b) it’s another constant reminder of how much that ball/puff ability is and how you can’t afford it yet. I feel the first point is rather important. It’s a game inherently designed to be challenging, but it’s hard to get any sense of flow or momentum going because of the time it takes to get between ending a run and starting back up again.
Ball of Woe is an enjoyable iOS game – just one that is marred by poor choices on how to implement in-app purchases correctly. Through gritted teeth, and only on the basis that the game is solid and has a such a lovely, unique IP, I’ll give the game 3/5. I hope the developers will tone down some of the IAP systems next time.
This game was reviewed using the iOS version.
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