You’ll be drawn to this free dose of sketch-based puzzling
The team behind Paper Toss and Strike Knight returns with another generous slice of free iPhone entertainment. Graffiti Ball, which sees you sketching out an exit path for a dropping ball, is the kind of simple, infuriatingly addictive puzzler you’d happily pay money for.
Which makes Backflip Studios the soup kitchen volunteers of the App Store, providing tasty morsels of casual goodness for us poor gamers. Except they’ve made millions of dollars from placing ads in their games, so we’ll leave that analogy where it lays.
Back to Graffiti Ball, which presents you with a succession of simple physics-based puzzles. In each, a pink ball hangs suspended in time and space, waiting for the level to be activated, at which point it will be dropped into the veritable obstacle course below. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to guide this ball to the level exit, which is usually inconveniently situated at the opposite end of each street art-themed stage. To achieve this you can draw additional barriers using your finger – whether it be ramps, walls or just little bounce pads.
There’s no limit as to how much additional level furniture you can conjure, because efficiency isn’t where the challenge lies in Graffiti Ball. That honour falls to good old Lady Time. Each level has a strict completion time limit, so that elaborate loop-de-loop system you’ve fashioned may not be up to scratch.
Another thing to consider is the time bonuses that are scattered throughout many of the levels. These are usually worth factoring into your level design, even if they involve a large diversion, as the time expended getting to them is usually outweighed by the amount of time they credit you with.
And you’ll want to finish each level with plenty of time to spare, because Graffiti Ball makes use of the OpenFeint social platform. It’s one of those games where you’ll examine the online high score tables and wonder how on earth some of the times have been achieved, which is a sign of how commendably open this simple game really is.
That’s what sets Graffiti Ball apart from other Backflip Studios productions. While the gameplay is as tight as usual, there are multiple ways to approach many if not all of the levels. It’s a good job this open-ended approach exists, because the game lacks variety through alternative modes. It’s a simple case of playing through each of the levels, with absolutely no gameplay variation whatsoever.
While we’re grumbling, it can also be a little frustrating trying to get the exact desired shape in the exact desired location, which is an unavoidable side effect of controlling a precise physics-based game with your decidedly imprecise finger. The developer has worked a partial solution, with a prolonged press on the screen opening up a zoomed-in window on the area you’re drawing, but don’t go expecting stylus-level accuracy here.
Still, if such precision is what you’re looking for, you’re probably in the wrong place with Graffiti Ball. It’s a bright, accessible and – yes – casual puzzler that just so happens to have enough going on below the surface to keep you coming back for more.