Developer: RedNova Labs
Version Reviewed: 1.02
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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Mystery Ball is a weird, weird game. From a gameplay standpoint, it's pretty easy to grasp but the story and aesthetics are truly bizarre. It's a good bizarre, though - the gameplay itself is pretty good too.
In Mystery Ball players take control of Fred, a sentient marble as he completes a series of experiments designed to help him get over his crushing phobias. By avoiding obstacles like living hammers and bucket creatures, as well as collecting bravery badges, Fred will overcome his fears of being touched, heights, and time itself. That description doesn't actually do enough to convey just how weird and low-key but interesting this story is.
Just in case it wasn't clear from that description, in Mystery Ball players swipe a marble through a maze trying to pick up collectibles and avoid enemies before reaching the finish. It isn't the most original concept but there are a few clever quirks. Players occasionally come across items like a button for launching Fred into the air. These items can be saved and used in later levels.
Also, when Fred conquers a fear it allows him to briefly use a new ability. For example, once Fred is okay with being touched he can be flung around the map. Still, even with these gimmicks and fascinating plot threads, rolling through the surprisingly lengthy campaign can get repetitive especially when backtracking for more bravery badges to unlock new skills.
The game's surreal tone is heightened by its charming, vaguely steampunk visuals. It's not the most technically impressive game on the App Store but it's cute in a way not unlike World of Goo. It also features a great, peppy soundtrack and wonderfully strange voice samples.
Mystery Ball does a good job at being more than the sum of its parts. When the story gets too ambiguous the gameplay will do something neat and when the gameplay starts to sag the story will take another weird left turn. And when all else fails, players will remember that they are controlling a paranoid marble named Fred. It doesn't get much better than that.