Ink Ball is a stylish take on games like Enigmo
Enigmo set the standard for object-catching physics puzzlers way back at the dawn of the App Store. It’s since gone on to be one of the bigger titles in the history of the store (it was one of my first purchases). Ink Ball tries to do the same basic premise, with a nifty Asian flair. It mostly works, but may leave you feel a little wanting.
All you have to do in Ink Ball is guide the balls of ink (hence the name, I suppose) to the inkwell. You are given two tools with which to accomplish this, two kinds of platforms you can create. One of them simply lets the balls roll across them. The other creates a bounce, propelling the balls depending on the height they fell and the angle of the platform.
The unique aspect of Ink Ball is how you can solve a puzzle. Unlike most titles that give you a set number of objects to use, Ink Ball lets you do what you want. Each level starts with 100 ink balls. Solid platforms cost six ink balls, while bouncing ones cost eight. Naturally, the less ink you lose guiding the balls to the ink well, the better the rating you receive at the end of the level. Obstacles such as blots that eat up the ink balls, boards that block your path, and bottomless pits make the journey anything but easy.
The Japanese calligraphy aesthetic in Ink Ball is a great design choice. The light brush strokes bring the inky theme to life. The Asian-styled soundtrack matches the graphics by being subtle and very appropriate for the game.
The biggest draw in Ink Ball is its open-endedness. As mentioned, the game doesn’t force a solution on you. There are obviously more economical ones, but the choice is yours. Some levels feature some real head-scratching problems, like how to send the balls across a long, straight chasm, while others have ink blots like a minefield. Picking which platform you want is as simple as dragging from the icon at the top, then placing and rotating.
But once the platform is placed, it can be murder to move or rotate them. Once tapped, the platforms display a circular arrow around them to guide the rotations. The radius of the arrow is a bit too big, particularly if you have multiple platforms in a small area. Sometimes you’ll want to rotate a platform only to grab another one, move your solution out of place and watching your careful creation bleed the balls into oblivion. There must be a better way to control this. There is no pinch-to-zoom control, which would have made a big difference for fine-tuning the solutions. Most levels aren’t affected by this problem, but when it does, it can be a bit frustrating.
Ink Ball is also a bit on the simple side. The game doesn’t feature any extra content of unlockables. The ability to make your own solution is wonderful, but once you achieve a three-star rating on a level, there is no reason to return. A little replay value would have gone a long way.
While it lasts, Ink Ball is a fun physics puzzler. Its simple beauty carries the solid level design very well. The open-ended solutions will keep you going. There just needs to be a reason to come back. A gem while it lasts.