Take a 25-year-old arcade game formula and weave in a cute story and attractive graphics and you'll end up with something like Fizzball, a fresh new take on the Breakout or Arkanoid games from the early '80s.
C'mon, you remember the concept: keep a bouncing ball from hitting the ground by moving your paddle underneath it. The ball then travels back up towards the colored bricks, which explode on contact; the goal of the game is to remove all of the bricks, laid out in a specific pattern, so you can move onto the next level. Power-ups can also be caught, which may give you a bigger paddle, three balls instead of one or a laser cannon to shoot the bricks.
Fizzball offers a new twist on this familiar concept. Rather than a ball, it's a bubble, and you are none other than Professor Fizzwizzle who has devised a contraption to rescue hungry animals. The bubble, which you keep afloat, grows in size; the larger the bubble gets, the bigger the animals it can rescue. Your goal is to save all the species and find out why everyone has fled these three islands.
Though not all casual gamers may be aware of Namco's hit Katamari game series on the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable, Fizzball might be inspired by them as the premise also involves a ball that grows larger and larger as you collect more stuff, which in turn lets you roll over larger items. Did we ever think we'd see this game mechanic in a brick breaking-style game? Nope. All the more reason why we love it.
And hey, you just know when a game is going to be good when it starts with a thick-spectacled, safari hat-wearing professor playing a tuba, with dancing animals around him!
So, in other words, the idea behind Fizzball is similar to the old brick-breaking games, but it's animals you must aim at with your wacky contraption that glides Professor Fizzwizzle to the left or right of the screen. More than 60 different kinds of animals - from birds and frogs to ducks and monkeys to cows and sheep - roam about the various landscapes in the game. You must grow your bubble by encapsulating smaller species and breaking down fences, crates and barrels, so that the bubble grows big enough to catch larger critters. Players can also right-mouse click to blow the bubble towards the top of the screen.
The cartoon-like graphics fit the game perfectly. Fizzball offers colorful and detailed landscapes, complete with animated chickens who lay eggs (which you can also pick up with your bubble), monkeys you need to knock off perches, and penguins and seals you need to rescue from behind snowy pine trees. In total, the game offers 180 levels for both the Regular mode as well as the easier Kids mode, which also offers fun animal trivia and quizzes between levels.
More than 40 bonus levels serve as fun mini-games (offered every few levels or so), such as seeing how many stampeding monkeys you can catch!
If you play well, players can earn trophies to view from the Achievements screen, plus you can visit the adorable creatures you've rescued in the Animal Sanctuary area. Cons collected during the levels can be used to buy food for the animals.
As with other games of this kind, power-ups descend upon the screen, which you can try and pick up. Examples of these temporary powers include Sticky Bumper (the bubble sticks to your contraption so you can better position it before firing) and an Energy Shield (to protect the ball from hitting the ground when you miss the catch).
Fizzball is perfect for casual game fans with a nostalgic soft spot for these classic brick-breaking games or for anyone looking for an addictive digital diversion to waste away a few minutes or few hours. Parents will also like to know their kids will have fun playing this age-appropriate title -- and will also learn about animals in the process.
- Great concept; easy to pick up and play; attractive visuals; fun mini-games; many power-ups; kids mode available; for Windows and Macs
- Fairly easy game-play; gets a bit repetitive