King Oddball Review: A Peculiar Physics-Based Puzzler

"Why is this game on the PS4?"

It’s a question I kept asking myself the more I played King Oddball - and it’s a question that is still unanswered. Even as of this writing, I have no idea why developer 10Tons thought it was appropriate to release King Oddball on the PS4 – especially since the mobile versions of the game are superior. Heck, it’s even free for Android (as opposed to the $6.99 price point on the PS4). Even so, does it mean that the PS4 version of King Oddball is not enjoyable? Read further to find out!

If you enjoy Angry Birds
Then you are probably going to find something to enjoy in King Oddball. Make no mistake: this is purely a physics-based puzzle game with gameplay that is undoubtedly inspired by Angry Birds, and it shows. Heck, the camera angle is the same one used in Angry Birds, and while that isn’t a bad thing, my first impression was, ”Ah, another Angry Birds clone.”. Yet if it isn’t broke don’t fix it, right?

Not just an Angry Birds clone…
However, the moment you begin playing King Oddball, you will discover that it isn’t merely an Angry Birds clone. For starters, the size of the levels are fixed and you must fling boulders into enemies in order to progress to the next level. The catch? You must throw boulders from King Oddball’s tongue (whom is a giant moon with a helmet, crown, and a tongue that stretches for days). The tongue sways back and forth without your control until you decide to release the boulder and send it flying through the air at your enemies. It’s a perfect example of how limiting player control can actually add a nice bit of depth to a game. In the case of King Oddball, this limitation actually improves the game.

As for the actual physics of the game? They’re a bit ‘ragdoll-like,’ but they work. You will get used to the nature of the physics after a few minutes, making the learning curve incredibly low.

10Tons also made another smart decision: steering clear of a rating system. Most physics-based games such as Angry Birds or Cut the Rope use a rating system that makes the player feel as if they haven’t accomplished anything – even after completing a difficult level. Sure, completing that level is rewarding, but when you notice you only received one star for completing it? It kind of kills morale.

King Oddball

In King Oddball, you only have to worry about completing a level with the boulders you have in your inventory and nothing more. Moreover, there is an emphasis on aiming your shots so you eliminate as many enemies as possible with one boulder. Eliminate three or more enemies with one toss, and you will be awarded with extra boulders. Not only does this come in handy in harder levels, but it makes progressing through levels all the more gratifying. In a genre where levels feel too ‘grindy’ too often (I’m looking at you, Angry Birds), King Oddball fixes this problem and actually moves the genre forward. Way to go, 10Tons!

Lots and lots of levels
120+ to be exact. Complete one level, and you will unlock tiles around it to play. Beat all of the tiles in a grid, and you will progress to the next grid to continue the process. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to play bonus levels that use modifiers such as grenades to complete the level, which provides players with a nice break in-between flinging boulders into enemies. Moreover, the more levels you beat, the more modes of play you unlock that add even more challenge to the game.

Neat modes of play, added replay value
One such mode is the ‘Hall of Diamonds.’ Challenging players to have one boulder left in their inventory when they beat each level (i.e. the diamond), it adds another layer of difficulty to the levels you have already beat. More difficult than that? The ‘One Rock Challenge,’ which challenges you to beat a level using only one rock with just under a dozen enemies on-screen. It’s a mode that will separate the pros from the novices, and believe me, it’s brutal.

Finally, ‘Boom Challenge’ gives you the opportunity to beat over 20 levels using grenades rather than boulders. If you had a blast (literally) playing the grenade levels during the main campaign, you will have a blast (again, literally) playing Boom Challenge. It’s modes like these that add a decent amount of replay value to King Oddball, so if you feel yourself jonesing to play more King Oddball after you beat it, these modes should suffice.

King Oddball

Uninspired enemies
Unfortunately, King Oddball is far from perfect. The enemies you will face look like they were ripped from a free asset website for indie developers. Bland and certainly uninspired, you will be fighting tanks, helicopters, and soldiers throughout much of the game. Look, you play as a giant moon with a tongue that stretches from the heavens – the least 10Tons could do is include enemies that look just as unique. Alas, the ridiculousness of King Oddball actually intensifies how boring the enemies in King Oddball actually are.

Boring/ugly art style
I realize King Oddball was originally developed for mobile devices, but come on: if you are going to release the game on a console, make the visuals a little more impressive. This looks like a direct port of the mobile versions of the game – and even then, the flash-esque art style of King Oddball isn’t that impressive on mobile.

I’ll give 10Tons some credit – the backgrounds look pretty good. Beyond that? Every asset in the game is ugly. There were times where I thought I was in an altered timeline, playing a flash game on the website Newgrounds 10 years ago – except on my PS4. King Oddball looks ugly on iOS/Android/Vita, and it certainly looks bad on the PS4. This doesn't hurt the gameplay in any way, but if you hate looking at ugly visuals, you may want to steer clear.

King Oddball PS4

The PlayStation 4 Advantage
It doesn't have one. Unless you do not own a smartphone/mobile device of any kind (and by any kind, I mean any kind as King Oddball is available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, BlackBerry, Symbian, and WebOS) or a Mac/PC, then you have a reason to consider buying it on PS4 (also available on PS Vita for the same price). The PS4/Vita version of King Oddball is the most expensive version out there (minus the PC and Mac versions – but you can use a coupon code to knock the price down to a few bucks) – and it isn't even the best! Many times, I was wishing I was using touch controls to play King Oddball, because those are the types of controls this game was built for.

Thus, the definitive version of King Oddball can be found on the mobile side of things. As a literal straight port from mobile to the PS4, the lack of touch controls makes this version of King Oddball the weakest you will find. That isn’t 10Tons’ fault, yet it points back to my original question: why is this on PS4? It’s a game that doesn’t feel as if it belongs on the PS4 (or the Vita for that matter), and it doesn’t.

Final Verdict
If you enjoy playing physics-based puzzlers on your mobile device, then King Oddball will certainly deliver despite the uninspired enemies and ugly visuals. Because most of us already own a device that is more suitable for playing King Oddball than on the PS4 (and at a cheaper price), it’s hard to recommend purchasing King Oddball for the PS4. Add to the fact that the game is a bit of an eyesore with bland enemies, and there really isn't a reason to buy the game on your PS4. That isn’t to say King Oddball is a bad game – this just isn’t the platform that suits it best. Buy it on your mobile device/PC/Mac instead.

Final Score:6/10

Game Category: Action / Adventure & Indie

Article by - Dusty W.
Insert Date: 4/29/2014

A copy of this game was provided to PS4 Experts by 10Tons for review purposes.

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