All the best puzzle games share two major traits: they are easy to pick up and play and they hide enough depth to imbue their simplistic gameplay with long term appeal. Balls N Walls only shares one of these traits. Picking up and playing the game couldn’t be easier. It’s simple, fun and initially quite absorbing. Problem is, once you’ve played a few stages of either of the two game modes available, Balls N Walls quickly begins to lose its initial appeal. Yeah, it gets incrementally more difficult as you progress but there is no real strategy required for success – Balls N Walls’ gameplay has an overreliance on dexterity and timing that leaves little space for lateral thinking.
Unlike the Tertris, Columns and Lumines of this world, Balls N Walls never requires you to think ahead or to have any particular plan of attack. By putting nearly all of the games’ emphasis on timing, Balls N Walls all but removes any longevity it might have had. As I said, it’s still enjoyable for a while, but be warned; that enjoyable experience grows stale extremely quickly. That might be acceptable to many gamers thanks to the cheap price point, but with so many fantastic puzzle games available for a pittance on iOS, I personally am finding it harder and harder to justify this type of purchase.
Playing in either mode, the on-screen action is exactly the same. With a simple grid and a collection of red balls bouncing around the screen, it’s down to you to place walls around each stage to either separate the balls from one another (Isolation Mode) or to take control of as much of the grid as possible by enclosing the bouncing balls in as tiny a space as possible (Domination Mode).
Starting off in a gentle enough manner, the number and speed of these red balls quickly increases, making the completion of each stage trickier and trickier. Each stage will have a specific number of walls you can use and a specific percentage of the stage that you need to dominate or a time limit in which the balls need to be separated. Making things more interesting, your wall is destroyed if it is struck by a ball while it is being vertically or horizontally created. This does give the game a pleasing immediacy and, as I said earlier, does make the game initially enjoyable.
If online leaderboards were included, Balls N Walls might have fared a bit better, but playing against your own times or that of anyone else who may have also played the game on the same console (seems unlikely), Balls N Walls quickly losses its original appeal.
Balls N Walls isn’t necessarily a bad game or even a bad idea for that matter – while it lasts, it’s fun, engaging and delivers a decent challenge. Problem is, the formula (which is much the same regardless of which mode you play in) becomes far too boring far too quickly. At 80 MS Points, it might be worth a punt, but to be honest, you could probably get away with just downloading the demo.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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