So, I am a bit of a fan of iOS and Android as a gaming platform. Yet, I don't really notice many reviewers, both professional and amateur, giving these platforms the time of day. It really disappoints me, because I do feel there is so much potential here. So, I have decided to change that. Consider this review a pilot of sorts for reviews of Android and iOS games. This is my first time writing a review, so feel free to demean me and revoke my rights to an opinion should it be THAT bad. Well okay... don't do THAT, but feel free to critique and such.
Today, I'll be discussing one of my personal favorite iOS games: Magnetic Billiards: Blueprint.
Magnetic Billiards was developed by the Pickford Bros and released on June 16, 2011 for iOS. At it's core, it is a simple puzzle game with a spin on billiards (I bet you thought it was going to be about bowling, didn't you?). However, I must quickly remind you that simple is seldom the same thing as easy, as this game so gracefully demonstrates...
Upon starting the first level, your intuition will immediately kick in. "Ah ha! I see what you want me to do, Magnetic Billiards! I must connect all the balls of the same color! And to think some asshole on the internet told me this game was good!". So, you will. You'll connect all the green balls in one quick and painless shot. You'll sit there, smugly, awaiting your high marks for your flawless performance.
But that won't happen. You'll get an F. A big, fat stinking F. And to rub salt in the wound, caricatures of the developers will materialize to mock you for your horrifying failure. You see, Magnetic Billiards DOES play on the basic mechanic of "connect all the balls of the same color;" HOWEVER, what makes this game so exceedingly brilliant is that it totally reverses what you would expect from this sort of game! Instead of having to achieve this feat in as few shots as possible, you have to use as many shots as possible, as well as executing each one in as complex manner as possible, should you want the highest grade on the table.
The core mechanics come down to this. Your tariff is the amount of points your next shot is worth, and it increases with each successful shot. You can make each individual shot worth more points either passing it closely by a ball of another color ("buzzing") or bouncing it off the wall. You'll, of course, want to line up a shot in such a way where you buzz and bounce the ball as many times as you can. The catch is that should you connect the ball with one of a different color or fall short of connecting, then you get penalized quite harshly (it isn't that bad since you do get a shot preview). You top this all off with having to connect the balls in certain shapes to maximize the number of points. All these mechanics, plus a few more I don't want to spoil, come together to create a wholly unique, challenging, and addictive game. It does take a while to start thinking how the game wants you to, and can even be frustrating at times, but Stick with it! You'll start popping off good, great, and mega shots like its nothing!
Another thing that makes Magnetic Billiards really stand out is the polish. The visuals are sharp and entertaining, the sound and music is spot on, and the game has a great sense of wit about it. There's effective use of the touchscreen controls, as you can both draw back as well as push forward to change the direction and power of your shot. It's easy to switch between each mode, and both are actually very handy.
As for price? At the time of writing, it's free. Go open iTunes and download it this second. No, I don't care that you aren't done reading my shitty review... go download Magnetic Billiards. Regular price, however, is $.99, which is standard enough. I got in at least 3 hours of gameplay trying to get the highest score on all the tables. The game has microtransactions to unlock additional tables and game modes (not an usual practice in the iOS store, mind). Nothing is too outrageously priced: none of them cost more than 2 dollars, which is more than reasonable for a game of such great design and fun.
So, all in all, Magnetic Billiards is the definition of sublime. It takes a simple concept and transforms it into something unique, fun, and incredibly addicting. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment in figuring the game out, as well as an even bigger one once you truly master its mechanics. If you have an iPhone or other iOS device and DON'T have this game, then you are doing yourself a disservice. Seriously. This review is done... go get it!
The bottom-top line thing:
+4 (on a scale [-5, +5]). Unique, simple, and interesting puzzle gameplay that's addicting and fun. It takes a while to learn and understand the game's rules, but as soon as you do, you'll be well rewarded. Magnetic Billiards is well worth your time, bandwidth, and money.