There is only one word I can use to fully describe this game to you and that word makes up part of this game’s title. That word is Odd.
It’s going to be hard describing this game to you, but I will give it my best shot. You play through the game as the titular character King Oddball. Now King Oddball is no ordinary King, he’s a floating head of unknown origin that has traveled to Earth to attempt a hostile takeover. King Oddball spends his time throughout the game rocking his head back and forth, using an extraordinarily long tongue to pick up boulders and then proceed to fling them at the various tanks, helicopters and soldiers that he comes across as his quest for world domination is taking place.
Still with me? Told you it was odd!
The game is developed by 10tons, a Finnish studio that has released King Oddball on most mobile platforms and has now seen fit to bring it to the PlayStation Vita. Fear not however, as King Oddball, unlike another (Angry Avian based) mobile physics-based game that has been released on the Vita is not overpriced and will cost you £3.69/€4.49 with the SCEA version due to release towards the end of January.
The game sees you tasked with helping King Oddball overcome the obstacles blocking his way from ending the world. You do this by using physics to control the trajectory of boulders that the King throws from his lengthy tongue at the Earth, attempting to take out as many of the members of the Earth’s defence as possible. You will start each level with three boulders, but you can earn extra golden boulders by racking up combos or by hitting the King in the head with a boulder. The game starts out simple enough but towards the end, you will need all the extra boulders you can get!
To do this is very simple, the game only requires one button to play it with and you can choose whether you prefer the use of the touchscreen or the X button to send the King’s boulders on their path of destruction. This is the beauty of the game’s design and is what makes it great for a quick spot of mobile gaming. The simplicity of the controls makes it easier for you to focus on getting your aim spot on, ensuring that you can cause as much carnage as possible with a solitary swing of the rock.
I found myself restarting levels frequently while playing – not because I had to, but due to the fact that I wanted to improve on the chaos caused by my last shot. The physics of the game are perfect, with the boulders reacting as you would expect them to when hitting certain objects, the trajectory changing depending on speed, angle and the object that they collide with. This did lead me to points of despair, as when I pressed X too early I inadvertently sent some of my boulders to the ground without making any impact with my intended target. In the end though, this just gave me more drive to restart and try again.
The game gives you 120 levels to get through, with extra challenge levels that you will unlock as you progress. These range from one-rock levels – tasking you to squash all opponents with one boulder, to ‘The Boom’ challenge – which replaces boulders with hand grenades and tasks you to defeat well protected opponents by blowing them up. There is also a secret Moustache world if you can find all the hidden moustaches that the developers have dotted throughout the game.
The game’s graphics have a cartoon-y feel and look like they have been hand drawn with a pastille effect before being brought to life. The game really suits this art style and this, with the grainy filter effect the game has gives it a B-movie disaster film feel. The game’s eccentric art style also works well with the audio; the game containing an original score by Jonathan Geer which appears to have an accordion-heavy influence and provides a perfect (if not slightly repetitive) accompaniment to the overall strangeness.
There were one or two things that I do think could have been done a little better however. The game’s world is displayed on a grid-map split off into nine squares. Each square has sixteen smaller squares, which each play host to a level. The game allows you choose which way you navigate through the square, but there appears to be no reason for this, as you have to complete each of the smaller squares before you can progress to the next big square.
The other thing that I was slightly concerned with was the lack of variety across the 120 levels. Sure the backdrop changes every now and again, with helicopters and what appear to be skeletons cropping up as adversaries in the later stages, but that’s about as diverse as it gets. I would have loved to have seen the occasional ‘boss’ battle pop up every now and then – or anything, for that matter to break the routine of swing boulder, fling boulder, hit opponent, rinse and repeat.
After all is said and done, King Oddball is an addictive game. It has that one more go gameplay that you can lose hours at a time to, the King’s pendulum-like tongue hypnotizing you into continuing to play. Simplicity is key to this game, the fact that you can pick it up and play mean that the game is perfect to play in short bursts. For those looking for a bit more depth in a game, sadly King Oddball falls short here, sure there are plenty of additional challenge levels and suchlike but do you really want to keep flinging the same boulders at the same enemies over and over again?
King Oddball is certainly fun while it lasts, but as mentioned above I do think that the lack of variety in this game detracts greatly from my overall experience with it. For those that enjoy this type of game, King Oddball offers a novel take on the genre and is a great alternative to the other physics based game available on the Vita – doing so at a fraction of the price of its competitors.