Developer: Ran Elmaliach Games
Version Reviewed: 1.2
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2
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True to its name, Square&Ball HD is a game with nothing but squares and balls, but no one needs a review to tell them that. What they need to know is whether or not this iPad update of one-man development house Ran Elmaliach Games’ physics-based iPhone puzzle game is any good or not. The answer is yes, mostly. There is a lot of depth underneath the handful of simple mechanics but while that is great the majority of the time, it makes the frustrating moments all the more noticeable.
At the beginning of each stage, the player is presented with a group of blocks, some moveable and some not, and is tasked with turning them into a contraption that will lead the ball to the hole. The ball always spawns in the same position. As one progresses, new pieces are added like rotatable blocks, warp holes and little gadgets that cause the ball to speed up in a particular direction.
However, what gives the game its true challenge is how sensitive the physics are. Square&Ball is a game that encourages experimentation and there is the sense that each puzzle can have multiple solutions if one messes with their blocks just enough. For example, depending on where blocks are placed, they will fall once the level starts. With that in mind, the player can create a situation where a skinny block will fall underneath the ball onto a square block causing it to fling the ball into the hole once they make contact. Watching crazy, theoretical ideas like that one succeed in practice is quite satisfying.
Unfortunately, that system wherein a small adjustment can make a huge impact can also create scenarios where a player will have a set-up that technically will work but since one block is placed just slightly off, the whole thing falls apart. When that happens it really sucks. However, for each time that does happen, they’ll be a case where a broken system works out due to patience, perseverance and sheer dumb luck. Plus, making quick and tiny adjustments is very easy and if a stage ever stage gets too aggravating there is always an option to skip it.
The art style is uncomplicated but features a nice look reminiscent of a Leonardo Da Vinci sketch and the one song, "Bach’s Prelude in C," is slow, calm and classical, the exact kind of music a ponderous game like this one needs. The initial 47 stages fly by but the game itself promises more content is on the way. Square&Ball HD’s free-form nature may sometimes work against it but for $0.99 players could do far, far worse.