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Ballistic Bonbon

Published by XINK Games
Price $6.99
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

Xink games have put an interesting twist on the action/puzzle genre with their new release. I had the chance to try the game this week, and I have to say that it's a refreshing change of pace and an original concept. The game lacks a little bit of polish and balance tweaking, but overall it's very nicely presented, accessible and quite playable.

Getting ready to play level 5. A better view of the H.U.D.

The main focus of the game is much the same as at a target range. With a limited amount of ammo and time, the player attempts to knock out all the pre-defined targets in each level in order to progress to the next. This task stats out easy enough, but as the levels go by, soon enough you'll be facing some moving targets, targets that are blocked or hidden, or various mechanisms that require manipulation of panels or switches to progress. Although at first glance it appears as a simple and casual game (it's entirely controlled by the mouse), the difficulty is not particularly forgiving and progression through the game will present a challenge to most players.

The player controls cannons by use of the buttons at the bottom of the display. Once angle and elevation have been decided, the fire button launches balls. All targets need to be hit in order for the player to advance to the next level but they don't need to be hit in any particular order. By hitting the targets in the order specified by colour, the player can earn higher points for the round. The current next target in the order is coloured blue, the rest are green and targets that are not yet unlocked are red.

Domino chain - an example of the physics-based gameplay Find 5 keys and get a free level unlock (I found only one!)

The game can be frustrating because there is nowhere on the display that indicates the current angle or elevation of the shot, nor any trail or tracer extending from the short barrel of the cannon. This results in hit and miss being the only way to judge direction and distance to target. By holding the right mouse button down the player can rotate the camera around the current cannon, but still, aiming is very much a process of just getting a "feel" for the shot and letting a few volleys rip in the rough direction of your target. Some levels feature different cannon positions and these can also be used to judge positions of far targets based on perspective from different viewpoints, but it remains a very inexact science. To balance this out, the players supply of ammo is generally quite generous; however, the time limit is what will stymie you more often than not in the later levels. If a level is failed, the only option is to start it from scratch; something that tends to get a bit old after the 6th or 7th playthrough.

After spending over almost 3 hours on the game, I'm still stuck on level 11 out of the 25 levels included in the full game. The repetitive nature of the unlocking process and linear progression of the game really tend to reduce its appeal to me. This seems to be a bit of a game design problem, since the gameplay itself is not bad per se, but the repetition is. Unfortunately, just hammering away at the same level over and over is really the only way on.

The colourful backgrounds make each level quite memorable, and the nice sound effects are unobtrusive and of good quality. The game is presented very well with options to scale the graphics to the users hardware limitations, resize the H.U.D. and play in either a window or full screen aspect. There's an option to optimize the display for a widescreen resolution (which is a welcome yet often overlooked feature in many indie games). Another nice feature is that the default speed of rotation on the cannons can be set in the option screen but then further tweaked by using the mouse wheel in game. This allows for rapid retargeting and then fine tuning in just a few seconds.

You can freely go back and play cleared missions over and over if you'd like, and I think that the game is best played in small sittings of around 15 minutes. It makes for a nice chill out game and despite not having a lot of deep or provoking play, just getting to every target in the time limit allotted can be quite a challenge.

The developers have extended a very generous deal to the community by extending the 5 levels included in the demo to 10 levels. This offer is valid until the end of May 2011 and is a great way for players to trial the game. Eventually additional level packs are planned as downloadable content. Even with the included 25 levels in the base game though, there's plenty of content for the asking price of just $7. Not exactly a blockbuster, but worthy of a look if you enjoy physics-based games and/or puzzles.

Graphics 80%
Sound 85%
Playability 75%
Longevity 65%
Overall Score 76%
Silver Star

Published on 06 May 2011
Reviewed by Steve Blanch

Keywords: ballistic bonbon review, xink games reviews, xink games games, ballistic bonbon scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.