Developer: DIGITAL WORLDS
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★½☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

How could I resist reviewing a game with the less-than-glamorous title of SteamBalls HD? Contrary to what you might think, this game has absolutely nothing to do with Turkish baths. In fact, it’s another variation of the classic match three game, this time with a decidedly steampunk flavor.

You’ve heard this before. Match three items of the same color in order to clear them off the screen. However, SteamBalls HD (I never tire of that title) does add several new mechanics into the mix, making it worth a second look. The balls in question (which best resemble billiard balls) are distinguished not only by their color but also by their number. Numbers in this case indicate the relative weight of the ball – thus, a ball with the number five on it is heavier than one with the number one. At the bottom of the screen is a series of four balancing scales. Players must guide the balls at the top of the screen to the appropriate side of each scale in order to get three of the same color in a horizontal row. The addition of weight as a factor changes the nature of this type of game tremendously. Getting three in a row – only horizontally – means carefully balancing the scales with the appropriate weights and colors simultaneously, a task not always easy to accomplish.

Visually, the game attempts to channel steampunk mythos and imagery, and is reasonably successful at doing so. The steampunk motif is present, as the game presents itself as a “futuristic” game from a penny arcade circa the late Victorian era, but other than theme and window dressing, the concept does little to nothing to enhance the basic gameplay.

Controls work well, and the developers have stayed true to the steampunk idea by making all controls knobs and buttons you manipulate virtually on screen. While this works from a thematic point of view, it doesn’t make as much use of the iPad’s touch screen as it could, and it would have been nice if the balls and scales could be moved and adjusted using fingers rather than virtual controls.

Sound in the game is generally utilitarian, though there is music. The music that plays when you first open the game has a vaguely Victorian feel to it, but what plays during the game itself seems anachronistic. All told, the concept behind SteamBalls HD is clever, but it simply doesn’t seem as fully realized as it could be.

If you are looking for a new spin on the old match three genre, Steam Balls HD might be up your alley. However, there’s a limit to how many games can be produced from this already worn concept. It’s time for developers to give us something truly new.


Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, Reviews

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