Review: Drop or Fall for BlackBerry PlayBook
This week, N4BB reviews a new featured PlayBook game called “Drop or Fall” created by the software wizards at Modern Alchemists, an Austrian mobile app development firm. The idea behind the game is simple: You tilt the PlayBook from side to side, trying to get the ball to fall through the holes in the rising platforms fast enough to keep the ball on the screen. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, there’s more to it than that. You’d think that the monkey face says it all…but read on to find out more!
It isn’t the first time we’ve seen a falling-ball-through-the-holes-in-a-platform-style game, I know. I remember a really, REALLY simple on BlackBerry smartphones that I played for a bit called Falldown. But this one really is in a different league. And it’s not because the monkey in the game is probably the cutest image of one you’ll ever see (even though that helps), it’s because the ball actually bounces, the platforms can be sloped, you can play one of four different themes as well. You also have items which you can buy.
Yes, that’s right! You make money with this game! Or….well, at least in “Drop or Fall” coins. This lets you buy items, such as a “Ghost”, a “Heavy Burden” and a “Sand of Time”. The Ghost item can be used to slip through platforms regardless if there is a hole or not. This is very useful when you’re about to lose the level. A quick tap on the Ghost icon, and you’re at the bottom again in great shape. This effect doesn’t last long, but it does the job and is well worth the 20 coins it costs to buy it. The Heavy Burden icon changes the physics of the ball, reducing the bounciness of the ball. This makes it easier to get through to the next platform since you’re not bouncing as much as before. You can buy the Heavy Burden item for 15 coins. The last item is called the “Sand of Time” that you can buy for 10 coins. It’s an hourglass that (you guessed it) slows down the speed at which the platforms rise. The sweet part is that the ball keeps its original speed, making it easier for that extra bit of time to improve your position if things are getting tough.
Using the Shiva 3D and Open Dynamics Engines, the physics behind the game is solid. The ball bounces like it should, rolls under gravity, and accelerates under gravity exactly as you would expect. The game has a slight 3D feel to it even though it’s a 2D game. The game never stutters or lags at all, which is super important in a game like this as timing is everything.
The game is fairly easy, and you get used to it pretty quick. But it’s not a walk in the park. Things can get tricks pretty quick. The game appears more dynamic as you get further as platforms seem to move side-to-side and may tilt occasionally.
At the main screen, you can buy items, choose the theme, and view your coin count and high score. While playing the game, you can pick up an item that adds two extra balls on the screen, allowing you to rack up some serious scores quick if you can manage them all. You can pick up all the items you can buy just buy playing to games if you’re cheap with your coins. You can also pause the game by simply swiping the bezel from any direction, like many other PlayBook games, or double tapping the screen.
There is a dedicated FaceBook page for the app, where you can “like” the game. Liking the app instantly gives you an extra 400 coins as well! You even get a few coins every day just buy opening up the app. I find that this keep you playing that game more since you want to use all your coins to buy items.
The game doesn’t really end if you have god-like talent and focus. You collect a number of “special points” every time you go through a platform in one bounce or less. But when you do eventually lose, these banana/egg/moon/ninja star (depending on the theme) points get translated into coins. You get about 1 coin per 5 of these things. You also get a score, which usually goes up by 1 point every time you pass through a hole in a platform.
There is also specific music in each theme, each suiting the theme exactly right. The music is simple, but not annoying or overly detracting, so it helps the experience.
The graphics are friendly and inviting. The animations are extremely smooth and as responsive as you could ever want. You’ll notice that switching between “themes” changes the experience extensively, making it feel like a completely different game with each world. You can play as a cute monkey ball bouncing through the jungle, or a planet through outer space, a ninja though the sunset in an exotic land, or an egg through a stone level reminiscent of the humpty-dumpty story. All the items, backgrounds and platforms in the game change as well, giving the themes some depth.
There are a few things that can be improved however. Almost all the graphics in the game appear fuzzy like they’ve been anti-aliased from a lower-resolution version of the game. Instead of being crisp as they could be, they simply don’t do the PlayBook’s amazing screen justice.
There’s also a black bar at the bottom of the screen, an indication that this game was originally developed for aspect ratio, but it doesn’t really detract from the experience.
I’ve noticed that the PlayBook does get a little warm while playing the game, but it’s nothing to be concerned about. It happens with almost every decent game. When I can fry an egg on the screen, I’ll let you know there’s a problem.
The game does do a good job in helping you out with occasional instructions and tips. They do go by really quick though so be ready. I actually prefer it that way, since it gets to the gameplay faster.
Overall, it’s a fun game. It’s simple, cute and responsive. My main concern is the fuzzy graphics, which is a little weird on the eyes if you play it for a while. It’s not too hard, and not too easy. The music, themes, items, coins make this game more mature than most of the other games with similar gameplay. For a reasonable $1.99, it’s a deal. It’s got enough polish to make it worthwhile, and it’s quite accessible for kids of all ages to play for hours.