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Review: Fizzball December 7, 2006

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , trackback

Game: Fizzball
Developer: Grubby Games
Version: This is a review of the full version of the game.
Recommendation: Try the demo

What happens when you mix Katamari Damacy with Arkanoid? You just might get something that resembles Fizzball, the newest release from Grubby Games. If that name seems familiar to you, and it should, it’s because that’s the company that bought us Professor Fizzwizzle. (Which is, in my opinion, the best indie game of last year.)

In Fizzball, the Professor (and his robotic friends) discover that all the people have fled the islands, and the animals are mysteriously vanishing. Luckily, the professor has a new invention that just might be able to help. He calls it a fizzball. It starts out small, and looks like a simple bubble. But when it comes into contact with something smaller than it, it will pick up the object, and then increase in size. At first it can only pick up butterflies and apples, but pretty quickly it’s big enough to pick up cows and horses. Once all of the animals are safely gathered together, the professor can take them to an animal sanctuary he has constructed, where they can be safe from whatever is causing them to vanish from the islands.

The gameplay is essentially very similar to Arkanoid. You control the professor, riding back and forth on a track at the bottom of the screen. When the fizzball comes down, you simply place him in the way, and the fizzball will bounce back up the screen. If you miss, the fizzball will fall out of play, and you have to start over. When you run out of fizzballs, you’re all done. In addition to collecting animals, you can also break open crates, which often contain money, or items that will make your fizzball grow in size. Sometimes they also contain powerups.

Some of the powerups are simple things, like speeding up or slowing down the movement of the fizzball or inreasing the size of the barrier the professor uses to keep the fizzball in play. Some of them, however, are incredibly powerful. There’s a bulldozer powerup that will make the fizzball smash through any obstacle that gets in its way. This is very handy to get to animals that are sitting behind a pile of crates or a fence. There’s a gravity well powerup that makes the fizzball attract any nearby object, making it so that you just have to get somewhat close to objects instead of having to come directly into contact with them. If you get both of these powerups at the same time, you’ll absolutely fly through the level you’re playing.

But it’s not quite that easy. Somebody has left barrels of toxic waste laying around the island, and if you break those open, it’s bad news for everyone. And once you get a little ways in to the game (the end of the second island) you’ll encounter some enemies that will actually try to hurt you. They have laser guns, and if you get hit, you’ll be stunned and unable to keep your fizzball in play.

What I liked:
Just like with Fizzwizzle, the guys at Grubby Games put alot of work into adding special little touches to the game. When your fizzball collides with a tree, apples or acorns will fall from the branches. When you run into an animal that’s too big to pick up, they’ll respond to it. For example, dogs will bark, ostriches will hide their heads in the ground, and chickens will lay eggs. The soundtrack is also really nice, and fits well with the mood of the game.

What I disliked:
While I enjoyed playing the game, after about a half hour of playing, I was ready to stop. I guess I’m just not very into Arkanoid style games. Of course, I was glad to come back later and play a little more. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have a big sense of accomplishment when I beat a level. Perhaps I’m just not the target audience. I gave my young step-sister a chance to play it, and she was absolutely hooked.

Games it reminded me of:
The obvious choices here are the previously mentioned Arkanoid and Katamari Damacy. (Though the latter is only in spirit. That’s a totally different style of play.) The mouse control will be easy to pick up for someone who is used to Luxor or any of the games like it.

I suggest you grab the demo, and give it a whirl. While it isn’t the kind of game that I would normally buy for myself, I think it’s very likely that I’ll be buying a few copies for family members as gifts, since this are perfect for the kids, as for fathers, there are great gifts as funny t shirts for men that are even sold online. I think it’ll be a big hit, especially with the younger members of my family. It’s a very well made game, and I’m excited to see what the guys at Grubby Games come up with next.


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