As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.
“What a load of old rocks!” I hear you scream. Yes, King Oddball has a lot of rocks in it. Playing a gravity defying boulder known as King Oddball, you have to destroy all enemies on each level with a combination of physics, a tongue and three boulders.
If the idea of an Angry Birds meets Siege Hero clone gets you all prepared for war and sweat with delight, then perhaps you should consider giving King Oddball a shot. It already seems to be on practically every mobile platform known to man, but seemingly not happy with just that, King Oddball now makes its way to PS4.
It doesn’t immediately look as though King Oddball is a wholly original idea, but then how often do we see such innovation and change in our gaming life? After all, 20 years on and I’m still playing the original DOOM and I’m perfectly happy with that. King Oddball has some good little features too, but these are fairly narrow when you look at the other games it sits in the same camp with.
The game loads up with a simple menu overlaid with music. This reminds me of being in a French boudoir, with some harpsichord playing a cheerful vibrant melody. It’s pleasant enough, but the music is very repetitive and I fast found myself getting annoyed with it. Completing a level will present you with a “spectacular” message, which remains the same ditty for each successful completion.
Upon starting King Oddball, you are presented with a 12 by 12 grid that is broken down further into 4 by 4 groups. Only one 4 by 4 grid is open to you initially and you can only see what is contained in a few of the squares. The majority of the squares are blanked out while tanks are pictured presenting you with the illusion of choice. I’ll come back to that later. Each square potentially contains a new level or a special feature, however not all of them do and are slowly revealed as you complete a mission. This appears to be somewhat of a homage to Minesweeper.
King Oddball offers freedom of movement around the open grid and the intention is to explore the map in-between playing the puzzles and picking where to go next. With all this choice in the order of what you attack, I had hoped for a few pointers in the right direction. Unfortunately there is no indication from the game other than perhaps the size of the tank depicted on the square. However, I still have no idea if that is significant or not. Complete all the puzzles in the 4 by 4 grid and the next section will open up. It feels as if no effort has been given to extend the illusion of choice by allowing you to highlight a square to find out what might be underneath. Instead, once you move onto a square, you immediately begin the next challenge.
You usually begin each puzzle with three boulders. Each boulder is loaded ready on the end of King Oddball’s tongue and is used as a swinging pendulum-like catapult. Pressing X releases the hold on the boulder, then it is catapulted off in the direction of the inertia until it hits a tank (or another object) and begins to bounce and crash around in a familiar way. Sometimes it can feel a little like Peggle with the way the boulders bounce about, but never really as satisfying.
Hit yourself with a rebound and you perform what they call a “headshot”. Here, you can regain your spent boulders, turning them into gold in the process. These gold boulders can be used in exactly the same way as other boulders and sadly bring no additional abilities to the table. Very little alters along the way across the grid and other than a few special challenges that reveal themselves as you progress, the core gameplay is samey, just the position of the things you need to hit alters and obstacles change. I would have liked to have seen boulders that do different things to change how you might approach each level. Other than the welcome diversion that the grenade challenge levels give you unlocked later in the game, there is little difference in the way the King Oddball plays out.
As with many games of this type, having a quick reset button means that you can quickly try again if the first few important shots don’t do what you want them to. King Oddball happily sports this function via a quick press of the triangle button.
King Oddball features a very simple art and animation style which is nice, funky and fun and generally raises a gentle smile. Arguably it’s perfect for the desired game mechanic but it’s not going to push your PS Vita or your PS4 to their hardware limits.
King Oddball appears mostly bug free. However, on one occasion out of 152 levels and six hours <cough> of play; King Oddball decided I hadn’t destroyed everything, and just as the restart screen appeared, the physics engine continued to play out. So, I waited. The remaining tanks were destroyed and I was a winner, but I wasn’t. I had to restart the level and play over. Painful stuff.
Given you can pick up Angry Birds or Siege Hero for free on Android and iOS, the question is really whether King Oddball brings value for money. At the rather hefty sum of £5.99 on PS4, it does seem rather expensive for what it is (£1.59 on PS Vita). If you haven’t already tried it on other platforms and you fancy something similar to “The Siege of Angry Hero Birds”, then maybe this is for you. King Oddball is, of course, cheaper than the PS4 edition of Angry Birds Star Wars that weighs-in at £32.99 on PSN, and considering both have just over six hours of physics-based puzzle gaming, perhaps it does seem an arguably fair price.
Areas for Development
- Some variety in what the boulders do.
- A story to add some pretense as to why you are killing things with boulders.
- Some additional types of enemy
- A scoring system based on time and/or number of boulders used to add to the replayabilty.
- Reduced price on PS4 as it does seem too expensive when you consider what is available on iOS and Android platforms. (King Oddball itself is £2.49 on the Mac app store or £1.59 on Vita, assumedly for the same game).
It’s difficult to fault a game that is so simple in design and delivery. King Oddball really does do what it sets out to do. I did feel compelled to complete all the levels and will probably go through the additional challenges at some point. I didn’t ever feel it was a must play game, but King Oddball’s obscure nature and gentle humour proved to be a welcome distraction. I was unable to see if there was a cross-play feature for King Oddball between the PS4 and PS Vita editions as I couldn’t get the Vita version to download properly. However given the pricing, I assume there is no connection between them, but will update here if it turns out this is possible.
Technical Competency – 7/10
Graphic/Sound Quality – 4/10
Network Stability – N/A
Overall – 6/10
(These grades assess our playthrough, taking into consideration how many (if any) bugs were encountered, whether there were any interruptions in gameplay and the product’s final technical state. These scores, coupled with the Final Analysis and Areas for Development, are suggestions for future patches and updates which the developers could (and in our opinion, should) explore. These scores are separate to our DLC/Expansion Reviews but link into our Patch/Firmware Reviews.)
(These scores are not designed as a grading system to determine the entertainment value of a product and should not be treated as such..)