Squareball Review

The bleeps and bloops of the 2-bit era can sound to us like grandpa’s tired, wheezing war stories. It’s hard to imagine this unimpressive noise delighting gamers thirty years ago. But there’s a charm to the way Squareball remixes those old sounds, dusts off the visuals, and rearranges them to make something surprisingly new. Like a videogame period piece, Squareball effectively recreates a bygone era.

In a novel twist, you don’t control the eponymous bouncing square ball directly. Instead, you scroll the environment left and right with your finger, keeping the ball out of the way of bottomless pits and deadly lava. Increasingly complex level design introduces new types of color-coded walls to bounce off of, like yellow quicksand that will slow your ball to a crawl.

No need to check your calendar; you did not travel back in time.

While this premise could have turned out terrible, the level design is really what saves the day. Each stage is reminiscent of a classic 2d side-scroller, but retold through blocky shapes and a main “character” that can’t stand still for a second. As a result, you have to keep moving forward, even if you can’t manage to scroll fast enough to move past one set of obstacles. It’s frustratingly difficult, but you’re still strangely compelled to keep going.

Through it all, you’ll hear some of the best chiptunes ever on the soundtrack. The music is incredible, and provides a perfect accompaniment to the intense reverse-platforming.

Awesome music, awesome difficulty.

We’re not really sure who will get the most out of Squareball. Is it for old fogeys who actually remember the Atari days? Or is it meant to challenge new players with the visual/audio language of a generation ago? We’re not sure both will get equal enjoyment– the intense difficulty level will probably alienate the first group, and kids in the second group will probably turn up their noses at the first screenshots they see.

If you’re somewhere in-between, though, we recommend you check this game out. Squareball conforms to our modern-day ideals of “fun”, even if it’s using an ancient language that might as well be Cuneiform.

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