Review: King Oddball (Sony PlayStation Vita)

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King Oddball
Publisher: 10tons Ltd.
Developer: 10tons Ltd.
Genre: Puzzle
Release Date: 02/04/2014

Let’s face it. Angry Birds wasn’t the first physics based puzzler and it won’t be the last. So lets get that out of the way. Still, the immense popularity of that series certainly helps bring it to mind whenever you see a stationary object launching something into towers full of enemies. As such, King Oddball is going to have to prove that isn’t an Angry Birds clone before people can take it seriously.

There’s kind of a story here. Rather, there’s a setup. You play as the titular King Oddball. You want to rule the world. It’s not too difficult. You basically look like an angry moon with a crown on its head. The pitiful tanks, soldiers, and helicopters can only look on as you chuck huge boulders at them. You’ll move from location to location, murdering the machines of war and claiming land as your own. That’s about it.

When you start up a game of King Oddball, you’re limited as to what you can initially do. The first few levels are basically there to get you into the hang of things. After you’ve cleared one section of the map, you’ll unlock the next. Some map sections have bonus areas that either unlock extra modes or options. There’s the regular mode, another that tasks you with completing levels with at least one rock left, one that has you tossing grenades, and another that only gives you one rock to beat the whole level. There’s also a chart that shows your stats, and the ability to check on your trophy progress. All of these features are accessed by the game map, which is pretty nifty.

kingoddball1Visually, the game has a simple art style that kind of works, but seems a bit tame for the system. Grainy backgrounds combine with simple 2D models and a complete lack of animation. There’s not much charm or personality here. The king himself has an angry looking face, but that’s about it. You certainly won’t find yourself wowed by the graphics here.

For menus and the map, the game uses accordion music that would be quite at home in a Layton game. It was nice and fun to listen to. For the levels, there’s one theme, and it gets kind of old. It’s kind of slow paced and methodical, which seems to have been the point. One nice thing the game does is halt the music altogether after you fire your last shot. It builds the suspense quite nicely. Beyond that, there’s some simple explosions and thumps. I only recommend listening to it because of the little chime that plays when you get a combo going. It’s a rewarding sound for a well placed shot.

So the game is simple. Each level starts you off with three rocks and a group of targets. There are usually more targets than you have rocks, meaning you need to either get a combo going or earn an extra rock. The king sits up at the top of the screen and uses his ridiculously long tongue to grab rock and whip them around. All you have to to is tap the screen or tap the cross button for him to release the rock. Based on the angle and speed of the rock at the time of release, it will launch toward your intended target. Direct shots will take out tanks, soldiers, and helicopters. The rock will ricochet and potentially hit other things until it loses momentum. Then it just sits there.

There are different objects to hit, and they each affect the rock in different ways. Bricks can take a direct hit without breaking, but will topple if hit at the right spot. Sand will break easily, but the rock can’t bounce off it. Also included are metal beams that don’t break, giant rubber balls that send the rock flying, and the various targets themselves. For example, the rock won’t bounce off a squishy human, but will ricochet off of a tank.

kingoddball2You can earn extra rocks in a couple of different ways. You can get a combo of three or higher, or bounce a rock so that it hits the king. These extra rocks are golden, but they aren’t any stronger or anything. The fun is in trying to figure out where to aim in order to string together those long combos.

In practice, the game is quite fun and quite addicting. Figuring out the best strategy for each level, and then executing it take practice and patience. Plus, there’s always the luck factor. I’ve beaten many a level by pure dumb luck when a rock I threw by accident managed to ricochet off of four or five targets. It’s amusing to say the least.

With all of the challenge modes, there’s plenty to come back for. This game can definitely keep you busy for hours, even if the main quest isn’t all that long. Still, once you’ve beaten every level, there’s nothing to come back for. It has no high scores or rankings, so you can’t really try to best yourself.

Short Attention Span Summary

King Oddball is an amusing game that manages to be addicting and fun. While it might seem like nothing more than a cheap clone, it has enough differences to avoid that dubious distinction. If you’re a fan of these types of games, chances are you’ll enjoy this one as well. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying one of the Angry Birds collections at any rate.

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