Outrageously bright colors and a funky soundtrack make this match 3 game rise above the sea of clones
It’s hard to take a game seriously when it is named RadBalls, however this iOS game is an addictive and hip arcade puzzler despite its funny name. Coupling bright and electric colors with funky beats and a unique twist on the game mechanics of other familiar “match 3″ games, RadBalls manages to be fresh and new. There is plenty of content in RadBalls to entertain mobile gamers, even those who claim to be bored with Bejeweled-inspired games.
The first thing that’s important to know about RadBalls is that despite appearing to be a Bejeweled clone right off the bat, it isn’t. Through the addition of many interesting mechanics and powerups, RadBalls feels like a worthy standalone game. The goal of the game is to match like balls and build geometric shapes by grouping balls of the same color together. These polygons have to be at least 2×2 in size and form MegaRadballs. These MegaRadballs are cleared when a horizontal wave periodically descends from the top of the game screen. This wave can be tapped on and ‘scratched’ DJ style up and down while on the MegaRadballs to make them explode for extra points. The larger the MegaRadball, the more points and Radness score that will be earned. Radness is added to the Radness Meter at the top of the game that completes a level when filled. Your Radness slowly depletes over time, and if it reaches zero you will lose that level.
It’s not possible to talk about RadBalls without completely gushing over the soundtrack. This game has the best background music I’ve heard in an iOS title so far. The Creative Director for the game, Neil Voss, is also a talented musician who remixed several songs from OK GO and other electronic artists to make an incredibly funky experience. The music is fast-paced with a strong beat that matches the bright 80’s-inspired art style perfectly. There are several songs included in RadBalls that change randomly as the player progresses through the different levels. Another neat feature is the ability to use your own music in addition or in replacement for the default music. The wave within the game will actually use the beat of your music to determine how it cascades down your screen. This added bit of customization and attention to musical detail makes for polished and immersive gameplay.
The actual gameplay itself is also very well done. There is a quick and helpful tutorial level that walks the player through all the knowledge that is needed to start diving into the harder levels in the game. RadBalls manages to teach the player in a way that doesn’t feel patronizing; it actually is an enjoyable learning experience. The different powerups and options that the various balls in the game have are unique and exciting, such as the lightning ball that blasts all the other balls around it or the freezing ball that puts a layer of frost on your screen that has to be cleared. The difficulty curve is well-scaled; I never found myself frustrated at how hard the levels were yet they didn’t feel overly simple.
That doesn’t mean the game was without frustration though. I noticed quite a bit of slowness and the occasional crashes of the app on my 1st generation iPad. The menus took quite a bit of time to navigate through, and loading seemed to be slow between levels. The gameplay was simple, which means that some people might find it to get boring and repetitive over time before finishing all of the levels. Also, in some levels the colors are hard to discern due to the palette being so similar between the different colors within the level.
Overall, RadBalls is a fun little bite-sized experience that is worth playing through, even if only for the bright and colorful aesthetic and the amazing upbeat soundtrack. It isn’t overly complicated, it’s easy to pick up and learn, utilizes the multi-touch capabilities of the iOS devices, and would be a great game for all ages to play around with. RadBalls brings something new to the tap-to-swap puzzle game genre and is definitely worth the price of admission.