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Switchball (PlayStation 3) artwork

Switchball (PlayStation 3) review

"With uninteresting puzzles and gameplay, Switchball becomes little more than a game of struggling against awkward controls and heavy eyelids. It's very relaxing, but that's the trouble. It's too relaxing."

I had wondered why there was little coverage on Switchball. It seemed like a light, relaxing puzzle title. Sometimes that's what you need to cleanse the old pallet after weeks of bloodletting, slaughter, and heart-pounding action. Without checking deeper or using that magical device called “Google”, I decided to jump straight into Switchball.

...And the verdict: it could have been worse. Do I really want to say that about any experience? I got shot in the foot, but it could have been worse. I caught the clap, but it could have been worse. I paid hard earned money to download Switchball, but it could have been worse.

The game takes it easy on you at first. It tosses some simple levels with decent graphics and animation at you, supplements them with a soothing electronic soundtrack, and introduces you to the core gameplay of solving puzzles and transforming your plain ball into other types of balls. Your regular ball can't move metal boxes, so a giant ball is necessary. Another ball type allows you to add abilities like jumping or magnetism. For times when you need to cross fragile platforms or float in the air, you need a balloon-like “air ball”. It all brings back memories of Super Mario Bros. 3 and the ridiculous costumes you could use, only implemented more for puzzle solving.

Those first few levels feel like the simple beginnings of a possibly magical game. In between riding looping or blazing down slopes, you complete a few easy push-block puzzles and switch off nasty equipment out to murder your ball. You know, junk like magnets or high-powered fans; stuff a metallic or lightweight ball might find deadly. Tangle with these suckers and it's an instant life loss. Also along to make you feel insecure are much larger balls that roll down inclines and threaten to send your puny ball rolling backwards into the gutter. Switchball doesn't only test your brain power, but your precision and ability to control a wonky-moving sphere. The controls are very similar to Marble Madness, where the ball gains momentum as it rolls and becomes harder to stop.

With the first few levels, the wonders don't cease. It seemed like there would be enough variables to make some brilliant puzzles. Then you begin to realize, halfway through the game, that you've done the same push-block puzzles over and over again, only with an added element like platforming or timing. Many of the same perils and transformations reappear in the same ways. I can't count the number of times I've had to push a box over to a switch to turn off a magnet to access another box; or how many times I've had to arrange boxes to create a series of platforms from one end of an area to another.

The only true difficulty is in those aforementioned wonky controls. My most frequent death is rolling just a tad too far. This is especially tough when you have to cross gaping pits using a narrow plank of wood as your path. It seems Atomic Elbow loved to throw situations like that in the middle of puzzles. It doesn't help that many of the puzzles are easy and obvious--and there's nothing worse than repeatedly dying in the middle of a puzzle when the solution is so bloody apparent.

That soothing soundtrack eventually becomes too soothing. Combined with the dull gameplay, the two elements sap your energy and cause your eyelids to grow heavy. It got to the point that I had to talk myself into playing this game just so I could finish it, and when I did play it I struggled to stay awake. You might find it cliché of me to say this game is a cure for insomnia, but I did play this game on a few sleepless nights with great success.

With uninteresting puzzles and gameplay, Switchball becomes little more than a game of struggling against awkward controls and heavy eyelids. It's very relaxing, but that's the trouble. It's too relaxing. The puzzles are boring, the gameplay is dull, and the music will make you feel like you've been drugged. No matter how many times I tell myself that it could be worse, I don't feel reassured. I still feel like I've dumped money into a game that feels like it belongs with the $5 ultra-casual games at a big box store; games like Bejeweled and Taipei. In other words, Switchball is a granny game.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (July 03, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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