Red Ball Challenge caught our eye for two reasons. First, it follows the trend of red balls, a topic that seems to be popular on the App Store in both gaming and adult content. The game is also the official game of the TV show, Total Wipeout, where contestants test themselves against grueling tasks. Its major selling point: watching people screw up and take a disastrous plunge into the water below. Due to the game iteration’s major issues, however, the only thing that will end up taking a disastrous plunge is your iTunes allowance.
This tie-in takes six events from the show. The first four are the ‘qualifiers’, which must be passed in a total of one minute and fifteen seconds, including any time additions you get for failing a course, in order to proceed. These include Topple Towers and Big Red Balls that must be jumped across, the Sucker Punch where you hug against a wall of boxing gloves that try to punch you off the ledge, and the Rope Swing which involved running as fast as you can and swinging from one platform to the other.
Qualifying allows you to take part in the Sweeper, where you must keep your balance on a pole while a red bar swings under your feet. This involves all the contestants performing at once and the last six to remain move onto the finale, Dizzy Dummies. The goal here is to race across spinning platforms to the finish line. Failing any event results in a slow-motion playback and some funky ragdoll physics.
These may sound like intense fun, but there is little to be had. The biggest issue is in the controls: they simply don’t work well. Touch buttons don’t respond quickly enough, the accelerometer randomly goes askew and throws your balance off, and the correlation with the visuals isn’t good enough. Most of the time you can blame the game for mistakes.
Another flaw is that each level is identical each time you play it. Even with online leaderboards, there is no reason to keep playing after you complete the game. Reaching a game unlocks it in practice mode, but we never found much use for this.
Lackluster production values, extremely low framerate, and choppy animations mar an otherwise promising graphical style. Many of the load screens are poorly implemented, freezing up randomly and forcing you to restart the app, losing all current progress. The unique character models have some personality, but their mannerisms are almost identical. On our first playthrough we laughed at the cheesy remarks of the hosts, but unfortunately these remain the same every time.
To top this off is the large collection of bugs that the developer should have drowned in the water before releasing this game. Some of the more noticeable include game freezing after pressing the ‘skip’ button on playbacks, slowdown of the entire game to a snail’s pace, and crashing. These happened so frequently that we came across them all multiple times in just a half-hour.
We hope Red Ball Challenge is cleaned up in an update to improve the experience. Currently, though, we recommend simply creating your own obstacle course in your backyard, even if you are a fan of the TV series.