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If the bland title doesn’t put you off, the first five minutes will. Hurled into an unfamiliar puzzle game after a slim tutorial, it’s up to you to work out Spaceball’s advanced elements. But once you do, everything falls into place. Basically, you fire balls at a grid. When a ball hits a panel, it lights up. Keep lighting panels until the grid matches a pattern in the corner of the screen. Do it enough times and you go to the next stage. But it’s not that simple…
Various things like blocks and lasers soon prevent you from hitting panels, requiring smart and fast thinking to get the job done. You can bounce balls off the walls, and shoot the lines between panels to light multiple squares at once. In a genre littered with uninspired clones, it’s rare to find such an original and clever puzzle game.
Be warned: it’s hard. So hard there’s a screen before the menu confirming that each level was tested, and completed, by puzzle masters. Now, we’re not puzzle masters, but we got the hang of it on Easy; Normal makes you work a lot harder. In all modes, you have to work to a fairly strict time limit and contend with obstacles as well as the occasional room rotation, which can muck up the grid. As the time runs out, the camera jerks backwards, making it much more difficult to judge distance or even see what you’re doing.
There are 15 levels, each with five rounds, and if you die (by being pushed back from the grid four times) you have to start the entire level again. But we were happy to, because Spaceball just gets better as it goes along. A treat.
Oct 5, 2009