Pocketball, just released recently by Big Bucket Software, is a puzzle game centered around dropping colored balls into the right pockets. This simple premise is developed with such thought and care that the game just dazzles.
Built on the Box2D physics engine, players start with balls that drop at predefined points, and they have to fall into colored pockets. Draw ropes between pegs, which bounce the balls at different angles according to gravity. To complicate things, there are obstacles carefully placed to stump you: bombs that destroy nearby balls, gravity wells, and arrows that push balls in a direction.
There are 30 stages in all, which lasts longer than you would think. The first 5 puzzles are fairly straightforward, but by the time you hit puzzle 15, you’ll be spending a lot of time poring over solutions. Thankfully, the game unlocks multiple stages at a time, and even lets you leave a few in a set unsolved before throwing you a new set to play with. All of which means that there’s always something for you to do, and it’s rare to get stuck. Players will always be testing out solutions or moving to another stage. One of the best things about physics games is the unpredictable and spontaneous nature of puzzles, leading to multiple solutions. In this game you’ll often come up with solutions that are ingenious workarounds and are wholly yours.
The art in this game is great. Warm hues of brown and orange are comforting and inviting, encouraging careful and thoughtful play. The sound is minimal, with no music and great sound effects: which we like, because anything more would be distracting.
The interface is very well designed. The bottom pops up a level selector that shows you which levels have been unlocked, completed, or not yet attempted. It’s done with a simplicity and elegance that more iPhone games could learn from. The game also lets you clear all the ropes in a level with a simple shake, which is a great idea, but a little lacking in execution. It requires a little too much vigorous shaking and then pops up with a confirmation dialog, making it a bit awkward to use. Sometimes found just erasing the ropes one by one felt faster.
It’s a minor blemish on an otherwise gorgeous and polished puzzle game, however. For $1.99 in the App Store, it’s an absolute must-purchase.
Pocketball gets our AppSmile 5-Dimple rating: