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Quick Reviews from the Request Desk – 8.17.11
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The latest installment features a cannon shooter, a stealth puzzler, and a physics challenge. Check ‘em out!

A Game With Balls

A Game With Balls is a fun high-score challenge from Puppy Punch Productions that tasks you with keeping a stream of objects from coming into contact with your cannon for as long as possible. Using either touch or tilt controls, you must aim your cannon at the geometric shapes raining down upon you, blasting them with small or large balls. These do not cause explosions or vaporize the objects, but rather nudge their paths to allow the items to fall harmlessly off of the screen bottom. Your ammo supply is indicated at the screen bottom and can be exhausted with continuous use, though it refills fairly quickly when you let off the trigger. The objects themselves carom around the screen and into each other as you knock them off-course. Some have unique properties, such as fusing together with similar objects when contacted and forming odd masses that are harder to control, for example. Your ammo can also ricochet around the screen for a bit, continuing to influence objects in unintended ways.

The game ends as soon as any foreign object touches your cannon. The longer you survive, the more balls you earn, which are used to unlock the game’s various graphical overlays, each offering a bold and unique look. The audio uses a looping soundtrack that’s decent, but it can get tiresome after a short while. In Touch mode, tiny balls will be fired wherever you touch the screen with a single finger, and larger balls are fired with a two-finger touch. Tilt mode uses tilting to aim, while touching the right side of the screen fires tiny balls; the left side fires large balls. It’s a fun 5-minute diversion that’s easy to jump in and out of, as well as come back to from time to time. There are 3 difficulty levels and GameCenter leaderboards for each pairing of graphic overlay and difficulty level, in addition to nearly 2 dozen achievements to earn. A universal app at $0.99, A Game With Balls is a unique 4-Dimple timewaster.

Pickpawcket

Pickpawcket is a whimsical stealth-based puzzler from Loopycube. When all of the town’s cat art is stolen, one feline takes it upon himself to infiltrate the dog museums to recover the masterpieces without being spotted. Each of the 60 levels puts our hero in increasingly more complex and challenging situations as he evades the sight lines of the guard dogs and uses disguises/distractions to avoid detection. The dog guards always walk in predictable patterns, so learning their habits is the key to staying hidden. Some situations make it unavoidable that they won’t see you, so you can don a dog suit that won’t raise any suspicions or flip on a TV to draw a dog’s attention.

Maneuvering around is as easy as touching where you want the cat to go, though there is a joystick option, too. Each level contains 3 cat gems to snag, as well. These gems boost your score and are required to unlock the other museums. When you successfully grab the painting and make it back out the door, you are scored on the number of gems you picked up and how quickly you were in and out. Additionally, you get to see the painting that you recovered, which is a remake of a popular piece that replaces any humans with cats. They are cleverly done and worth pressing on through the game to see each and every one. The graphics are average, the music is ok, and the controls are pretty good, though the touch controls (which are superior to the joystick) often leave you peering around your fingers to see the level. Replay value comes in the form of trying to improve scores by grabbing missed gems and shaving seconds off of your time. There are online leaderboards for each of the 3 museums, and GameCenter offers more than 2 dozen achievements to earn. A universal app for $0.99, Pickpawcket is a neat 3.5-Dimple offering.

Gravity Lab!

Gravity Lab! is a quirky puzzler from Mobile Snap that sees a robot flinging himself around inside of a laboratory in an attempt to collect 3 stars scattered throughout each of the games 75 levels. There are a couple of oddities to note. First, the robot cannot touch the stars himself. He must collect them by knocking blocks into the stars. Second, the color-coded blocks are acted upon by gravity in different ways. Green blocks fall down, red blocks rise, blue blocks are pulled to the left, and yellow blocks are pulled to the right. You only get to fire the robot out of the turbine once each level, so you need to make it count. A variety of helpful elements are slowly introduced, such as bouncy platforms, bombs, color-changing pools, and more. There are plenty of barriers to avoid, lest you bash your metallic noggin on them and render yourself inert. Once momentum is lost, the game counts down from 3 to 1 to end your attempt. This was the most frustrating part of the game, as a teetering block that finally caves and hits a star after the countdown will not count. The slo-mo camera effect that takes over as the 3rd star is hit is pretty awesome, but that final countdown doesn’t always act in a consistent manner, with delayed counts popping up from time to time without any discernible reason.

The graphic presentation is very nice, with awesome level designs and bold colors that liven up the gameplay. We were often very impressed to see blocks bouncing around the board and watching the convoluted path they take to nail all of the stars, marveling at the ingenuity of the designers. The audio is good, featuring a bunch of different sound effects that give the game a fun, arcade feel. Controls use a drag mechanic to set the aiming line and power of the robot’s launch. Since you need to drag forward, your finger obscures your viewpoint and makes it difficult to see exactly where you are aiming in some situations. Replay value is decent, as you’ll probably require additional attempts at a number of boards to get missing stars. Once you’ve done this, however, there isn’t much reason to come back for more, as there are no points, timers, or anything to work toward improving. GameCenter integration allows for a single leaderboard for Total Stars and a few achievements to pick up. Unfortunately, it’s sort of a one-and-done experience. A universal app for $0.99, Gravity Lab! is fun while it lasts, earning a solid 4-Dimple score.

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