Thursday, July 24, 2008

Factory Balls

The somewhat-unfortunately named Factory Balls reminds me of one of my favorite Sunburst education games when I was growing up, The Factory. Like The Factory, you have to perform a sequence of simple actions in the correct order to produce a desired result, which often requires some clever thinking and backwards reasoning.

Factory Balls isn't quite as good as The Factory, though. As you might expect from the title, you're operating on spheres, which opens up a few opportunities for particularly clever actions exploiting their three-dimensionality. However, it seems like the total number of possibilities is pretty limited, and it's frustratingly unclear what some of the devices actually do (I don't think I ever did figure out what that air gizmo in level 8 actually was), since the interface is singularly unhelpful. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if it weren't for my larger complaint. Namely, experimenting is half the fun of this kind of game, but the lives system doesn't afford you much room to make mistakes -- while sometimes you can (literally) paint over your errors, sometimes you just have to throw the ball away, and if you run out of balls you'll lose.

Anyway, it's a cute little puzzle, but with only 14 puzzles, you'll end up feeling that there was a lot of territory that could be explored which was left vacant, in favor of introducing some devices which feel awfully gimmicky and are only used once or twice. The graphics are pretty basic, and the background music is ambient enough not to be too annoying despite its extreme repetitiveness; the sound effects are solid. A neat concept, but not quite reaching the level of a great game.

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