Springball Review

PebbleBug Studios’ Springball might seem overly simplistic, even trivial ‘“ it’s just heading a ball repeatedly for points. Even so, its superb production values and controls make it a great fit for the platform. We have a feeling we’ll be returning to Springball for quite a while.

The “spring” in Springball comes from the game’s main action: leaping into the air to head a ball into the sky. Tilting the phone from side to side moves the player laterally, and tapping the screen makes him head the ball.

But there’s a lot more to this process than meets the eye. It takes skill to get Mr. McSpringy aligned correctly under the ball, since his head tilts easily from side to side with the phone. Even the subtlest changes in timing or tilt are enough to throw off the ball’s trajectory. Shoulders and hands count, but they’ll be moving, too.

In a way, Springball plays like a physics-based breakout game, only with a dude instead of a paddle. Power-ups can be collected to boost the score and release multiple balls, but they also act like physical objects, deflecting the ball when struck to add to the challenge.

The game keeps things interesting by adding new tasks. There are four types of balls to introduce to your noggin, as well as several gameplay variants, many of which have to do with knocking the ball through hoops.

Unlocking these goodies requires stars, 30 total, which you earn by performing tasks like hitting a points threshold on a level, staying alive for 10 minutes or knocking the ball over a height line 30 times in a row.

The graphics have a definite Flash quality to them, but they are colorful and nicely animated — the player made some silly expressions that cracked us up — and there’s plenty of visual “bling” when scoring points and performing tricks. It’s a heck of a lot better looking than the traditional 99-cent fare. There’s no music, but you can play your iPod.

If there’s any problem with Springball, it lies in its lack of adjustments, like changing tilt sensitivity, and online scoring. Still, we suggest spending the princely sum of 99 cents on Springball immediately, before the developer realizes this game is worth $2.99 or more. You won’t be sorry.

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