We’ve come to think of Dinky Ball as a big bag of potato or corn chips. Taken a few at a time, the levels in Dinky Ball can be enjoyable as a small snack, but if you’re looking to take in the whole thing at once, you’re likely to end up sick. And it’s not a consistently enjoyable bag, either. A few of these stages came out funny, and should probably have been thrown out.
In Dinky Ball, you control a ball by tilting the device to the left or right, tapping the screen to jump. The levels appear to be 3D, but you can only move along a 2D plane, and the cylindrical levels wrap around themselves as you move. It looks pretty nice at a glance, but all the potential for creative level design gets exploited very early on.
To keep things somewhat fresh, a few new surfaces are introduced, like slick surfaces that scoot you along quickly, sticky tar that keeps you from jumping, and bouncy trampolines that send you soaring. Less successful, however, is the time limit on each stage, which can range from extremely generous to irritatingly scarce. Some of the levels require absolutely precise timing, without a single half-second of screw-up.
If you miss a critical jump, you’re stuck in the level until the timer runs down or you commit dinky suicide. Plus, there’s no way to pause the game, and we weren’t really sure at first if quitting would save our progress (fortunately, it does). And then once you’ve beaten the game, there’s no way to revisit the more interesting levels, look at your best times, or share them with friends online.
It’s 8:31. Do you know where your children are?
The crazy tradeoff between fun and frustration was what ultimately undid Dinky Ball for us. A few of the levels we loathed, either because the time limit was too constrained, or because the occasionally choppy frame rate threw off our timing. Dinky Ball seems to be in an awful big hurry, but it doesn’t improve as you play through it.
In the end, Dinky Ball is kind of a dud. Some of the levels left a bad taste in our mouths, and the good ones were over so quickly that we barely even noticed them. A great game should be savored, but Dinky Ball is just the App Store equivalent of empty calories.