Smashing blocks is what Boom Ball does best, and even now, as we hit the third iteration in the series, smashing blocks is what Boom Ball is still doing best. And even though Boom Ball 3 for Kinect does it just as well as its predecessors, it now also brings a little more to the motion tracking table than before!
Boom Ball 3 for Kinect won’t deliver many surprises – after all, at the end of the day it is just an amended version of the very first Boom Ball for Kinect; a ‘Breakout’ clone that removes the controller and puts you and your movements in place of the bat. Kinect is therefore a vital component to the success of Boom Ball and if you don’t have that piece of motion tracking kit in your arsenal, then I’m afraid that Boom Ball 3 is going to be of no use to you. But should you have it, then by golly you’re going to have some great fun.
Standing in front of Kinect and seeing your movements replicated on screen never tires, and thankfully the basic mechanics of Boom Ball 3 work brilliantly. With your hands acting as paddles, it is up to you to fire a ball – or balls should you manage to gather up the multi-ball power-up – at some ingeniously designed block filled walls. These ‘walls’ don’t just sit there waiting for you to smash them up though, and you’ll find them coming to life in various ways. Moving back and forth across screen is their most basic form, but later levels in Boom Ball 3 see some very clever ideas implemented, with farmyard animals, alien critters and more magically coming to life.
Removal of the blocks in the fastest time possible is your goal, and it is as simple as pushing your arms forward and hitting the balls towards them, hoping and praying that contact will be made. For the most part you don’t need to be too precise, and that’s a help as Kinect isn’t in any way as accurate as using a controller, but there are the odd few levels that see different blocks take hold, with the regenerating ones proving particularly troublesome. I have to admit that it is here with these later levels that a bit of a loss in enthusiasm for Boom Ball 3 – and Kinect in general – came to the fore, as precision is needed, especially in order to grab the Gold par times. But rarely does this game allow for that precise movement, and trying to pick out, and hit, that one block in and amongst the many is just a bit annoying… especially when it’s flying across the screen at the same time.
It is slightly frustrating to see luck play a big part in your progress in Boom Ball 3, but if you think back many decades to when Breakout was king, it was just as true then. Personally though I’d like to see skill rule over luck and standing in front of your TV, waving your arms around in the vain hope that you can manage to hit a particular block isn’t always fun.
To help you out in your brick busting campaign, the Virtual Air Guitar Company have included numerous power-up types. These see you gifted with the delight of multi-balls, big balls, explosive balls and heavy balls, all of which can help you rid your screen of more blocks with relative ease. Most of the time though these are well hidden and will required a bit of batting to and fro in order to break through to the goodies, but with time of the essence – at least if you have any hope of picking up some medal par times – you’ll need to utilise all of them in order to get the most from the game.
One of the biggest changes with 3, over previous Boom Ball games, is the chance to customise your paddles. Not only are there many unlockable designs available, but using the power of Kinect, you can stick your own face – or the face of your dog, should you so wish – on the paddles. These different designs may bring little but joy, but it’s a lovely addition to have.
In order to unlock them though, Boom Ball sees you needing to pick up stars. Playing through and completing each stage on Normal gifts one, whilst moving things up a notch to Fast brings another. Should you be mad and wish for a full workout, turning yourself into nothing but a blur of arms and legs, then a Turbo mode is the ultimate Boom Ball experience. Strangely, whilst this seems silly fast to begin with, leaving you wondering how on earth you’re ever going to be able to complete a stage, once you get to grips with things, it is these two Fast and Turbo difficulty levels which bring the real enjoyment. Normal is great – don’t get me wrong – but a challenge is occasionally needed and that is where the Turbo mode comes in handy.
All of the levels included in Boom Ball 3 are bright and well designed too. Coming with a few lovely themes that will see you heading down to the farm, diving under water or visiting alien planets, the blocky nature that has been seen in previous games doesn’t ever fail to delight. There are a few of the 50 levels that are highly annoying though, with indestructible bars proving very frustrating, and those damn regenerating blocks provide a stern test of the luck, but on the most part, the multi-staged levels are enjoyable, well created, affairs.
I can’t in all honesty say the same about the audio that accompanies those visuals though. The sound effects of bashing and exploding blocks are simple and effective enough, but the backing tunes are fairly annoying – so much so that turning them down is quite the tempter. Unless of course you want to go to bed at night with the repetitive tunes still worming their way around inside your head. Each to their own on that one though.
Whilst the entirety of Boom Ball 3 can be played in solo form, there is also the chance to smash balls and blocks with a friend alongside you. By sheer definition, you’ll need a bigger playing space than a solo player will need, but the Virtual Air Guitar Company have ensured that multiplayer on Boom Ball 3 isn’t all that bad and needs less space than before. I have to admit that I’m not taken by it quite so much as being able to casually run through things alone, but it all works well and the inclusion of multiple paddles never really becomes an issue. I would however like to be able to choose who is the #1 player, as by default Boom Ball 3 wants the player on the left to control matters, but that’s not a big enough issue for anyone to really worry about.
If you thought Kinect was dead, then you really need to think again. Granted, the technology in itself may have been pulled by Microsoft – at least for now – but with the likes of the Virtual Air Guitar Company continuing to create and push products for those who already have the peripheral, then there is most certainly no reason to remove it from play entirely. Should you be one of those who are looking for a fun game that is a little different from the norm, have Kinect to hand and are wanting to get your butt up off the sofa and ensure you get a sweat on, then Boom Ball 3 for Kinect does the job intended.
Smashing blocks is great, and if only the randomness could be toned down a bit then Boom Ball 3 would be a must-buy Kinect title.