Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 1, iPod touch 4
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
The first time I played Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint, not quite understanding how it all works, I just shot a ball wildly into a crowd of other balls, figuring the goal was to take as few shots as possible. As my astoundingly low score and miserable grade indicated, I clearly did not know how to play the game. The goal is actually to take as many shots as possible, bouncing balls off of walls and near other colored balls to increase the multiplier value of each shot. Each shot taken adds points to the tarriff, which is the base value of each shot. In short, the more shots used, the higher the potential points value, and the higher score that becomes possible. Extra points are also given for creating shapes with the clusters of balls that get mashed together; in fact, these are the keys to getting S grades on the set pieces that compromise the game's levels.
While the game might not seem like billiards just based on its own take on the rules, the similarity lies in it becoming about strategic planning, playing smart shots that will leave the next shot open for higher scoring, rather than just living in the moment with just one shot. Later levels start to up the complexity to a point where this becomes not just a physics-based game of angles, it requires the kind of long-term strategy that a game like chess has. The aiming interface showing where the ball will go (to a certain distance) is an amazing help in making all this happen. The app is currently free to play and offers 20 levels. 20 additional levels along with 3 endless modes can be purchased for different prices, with a Skeleton Key for $3.99 that unlocks all current and future content.
The game's point can be very difficult to figure out at first, and a lot of the learning in this game happens after level attempts are made. Getting an A or S on some of the levels by forming advanced shapes feels almost impossible due to the amount of entroypy in having to knock balls into other balls to clear paths to form the larger shapes. The controls generally work well, but a lot of the narrower angles are very, very difficult to hit. The ability to set and lock angle and power without having to hold down on the screen would help out a lot.
Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint is one of the smartest games I've played on iOS, and it demands a kind of precision and planning that other games just don't have. The game works well no matter which platform it's played on, but iPad owners will definitely want to check this out on the larger screen.