Thursday, May 19, 2011

Skee-Ball got portable, and more addicting.

EDIT: So apparently the collections menu aren't limited. When you get a lot of things, another shelf is added to store even more things. So discard everything I said about increasing storage compactly, but I still think that the different ball and lane variants should be sorted onto different shelves located below the default shelf.
Skee-Ball HD
Freeverse and Graveck, two of those obscure indie mobile game companies, had not long ago introduced a version of one of America's most-addicting arcade games, Skee-Ball. If you got an iOS device, you can get Skee-Ball for a cheap price, and you'll be entertained for hours.

Well, it can be exciting at times, and even after you find out you can purchase items from an in-game market to customize your game, it only becomes your love-mate for the next six hours, until you eat away at the iPod's batteries. And how does this work?

Well, tickets, of course! Yes! This virtual adaptation of Skee-Ball even re-creates the classic quest of "collecting tickets to collect prizes that have no value whatsoever." Only here, they give you a purpose to waste tickets.

But before I discuss the use of tickets, let me describe the gameplay. It's Skee-Ball as you remember it- throw nine wooden balls up into a scoring area, and depending on which area the ball lands in, you are awarded 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and if you got badass aiming skills, you can even nail 100 points with one ball. If you do well enough, you can win bonus multipliers that multiply your score by up to 9x, with the multiplier value increasing or decreasing depending on your performance in the last game, and if you keep your streak going long enough, you're bound to score over two thousand on a game or two.

And as I described above, there are tickets involved. For every 50 points you score each game, you win 1 ticket at the end of each round. If you have multipliers in effect, your chances of getting a good amount of tickets per game increase (although it does not multiply the # of tickets you get, only your overall score). To roll the ball, you just swipe your finger across the palyfield, and Walhalla, out of nowhere a ball come storming down the alley and jumps the ramp, landing in the scoring zone. You can apply spin to the ball and roll it at different speeds. Once you've gone a good number of times, it's time to redeem those tickets at the prize corner.

When you visit the prize corner, up for sale are eight (12 in some versions of the "HD" edition). Most, if not all of these are cheap, useless "junk" that serves no purpose other than showing off to your friends (Note: the only of these worth getting are extra tickets, which actually give you tickets rather than taking away). At to my knowledge, you can only store a limited number of these (Correction: Storage is unlimited). Now why I bring up the (possible) limited storage number is because in the ticket market, you may also stumble on a number of different ball and alley styles that change the color scheme/patterns of the ball/field. These two kinds of items are the only reason to collect tickets, because they can be used to customize your in-game experience with different themes that suit your fantasies. And if that wasn't enough, they even change the items in the shop each time you do a round of Skee-Ball (some appearing more often than others). So just keep playing, and soon something will show up in the market that catches your eyes.

So what do I think about this? And what problems/frustrations have I encountered regarding this title? And what suggestions am I making to this game to make it hopefully even better than it is now? Well first off, the graphics are good, the controls are accurate (except it's difficult to roll the ball at maximum speed on the HD version and when playing the standard low-res version in full-screen on an iPad), but I have ran into some instances where the ball did get stuck on the play-field. 1: the left and right sides of the large 20-point holes, where two (or more) balls can get jammed, 2: right next to the 10-point socket where the ball stops moving and doesn't go into the appropriate scoring hole, and 3: the ball ends up balancing on top of the ramp that launches the balls into the air, and it never comes down. This caused me to have to reset the app or turn off the unit entirely (Update: These "ball getting stuck" situations are more common when you lob a ton of balls into the scoring zone at once).

Second, give the different balls and field styles separate folders (leading to different shelves) with no limit as to how many types can be placed and used, and do not allow us to sell them back for tickets. If we do, then we'd have to go unlock them again, which is something I'd prefer not to do. Also, allow us to set the ball/field style to "random," which gives us each time we start a game from the menu one random field and/or ball type purchased from the market. The amount of "useless" prizes should still be limited (Update: Discard this sentence).

Speaking of the market, the issue regarding some users not being able to access the menu where you can get in-app purchases to add items to the market and get more tickets (unless you have a plus+ account(?)) needs to be fixed, plus I'd like if the holiday-themed items from the free edition were also released as an expansion set to the paid version (if they aren't already).

Updates should not only focus on adding more features, but also fixing issues in the game regarding criticism in the iTunes store and other things, such as allowing moderately strong swipes on the larger-screen versions to throw balls at their fastest speed, updating the visuals of the standard version to retina (hi-res) graphics, adding support to Apple's Game Center, and allowing us to back up user data between devices via our Game Center/plus+ accounts. I play Skee-Ball on both my sister's iPod (second gen.) and iPad (1), and I have items purchased on one device but not the other.

So that ends my critique. Freeverse, if you can, please take these concepts into consideration for future verisons. Your app is extremely fun, and gives us an excuse not to go to modern-day arcades and blow money on tokens.

No comments: