Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Review: King Oddball


While the folks at 10 Tons have delivered some of my favorite twin-stick shooters on the Nintendo Switch they also like to dabble in casual games it seems. Their marble shooter Sparkle 2 was a great take on the genre pretty well defined by the classic Zuma Deluxe but this time, with King Oddball, they’ve taken a new direction with a physics-based puzzler. Taking some cues from the likes of Angry Birds at a high level King Oddball is a one-button game that takes a solid shot at providing some casual but challenging fun on the Switch for anyone.


I’m not certain there’s any story to speak of but you’re apparently Kong Oddball who is determined to throw rocks at various military pieces of military equipment and personnel, flung from his very long tongue. Whether this is for political reasons, he is an alien set on conquering the Earth, or he’s simply a character stuck in an unusual game nobody may ever know. All you’re armed with is the knowledge that pressing your button will make him release a rock and send it hurtling with the power of physics in a particular direction with a certain amount of angular velocity generated by the point of his pendulum-like swinging tongue. Does it make any sense? Not a shred, but it is a simple mechanic to grasp but that you’ll find it consistently challenging to master.

What’s nice is the progression of difficulty and the various alternative modes you’ll unlock as you complete smaller areas that then combine to make a larger square on the grid. As you complete each major square the next one will open and you’ll be able to make your way through it until all levels in it have been completed as well. Each area then generally has a special space that will have a variety of functions from helping you track special achievements, your core overall stats, or added modes like Diamond Mode where you’ll be trying to complete levels using less rocks for a challenge or a Demolition Mode where you’ll be throwing grenades instead of rocks and trying to position their explosions effectively to help clear out the level of enemies. So you’ll get a pretty steady challenge curve rising as you get into each new area accompanied by a new special space and potentially some extra surprises.


In terms of the downsides this is very much a budget casual title in the way it plays but that isn’t to say it isn’t challenging by any means. Unlike a game like Angry Birds where you have a pretty fair degree of your angle and power in King Oddball you’ll have to get the sense of timing to your releases and you’ll also need to quickly begin doing some rough estimations for how your rock will fly once you’ve hit something. There are usually shots that will wipe out either all or most things on the screen but knowing what you’ll need to pull that off won’t always be obvious so if you’re having trouble I’d suggest always changing things up and trying something different. Inevitably, though, enjoyment will come down to whether or not you enjoy the setup and appreciate the many levels (including quite a number of difficult Halloween themed levels they just added!) of challenges it lines up.

For the budget price of admission King Oddball actually provides quite a lot of content that would take you several hours to likely be able to work through. Once you add on the levels in the additional modes and the challenge of some of the more unusual achievements you could likely double that time. The question will be whether you’ll want to stick out the ride long enough to enjoy it all. That will ultimately come down to tastes, what you’re looking for, and how you’re planning to play the game. Using it to fill gaps in your day 15 minutes at a time would probably be great, playing for hours at a time probably not so much.


Score: 7

Pros:
  • Simple to understand, challenging to truly master
  • A variety of alternative and challenge modes will help prolong and diversify the experience
  • The price of admission is quite modest

Cons:
  • If you don’t dig the gameplay style it doesn’t matter how inexpensive it is or how many levels it has
  • It’s possible the challenge curve could aggravate truly casual players


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