While the physics puzzler has come into a renaissance of sorts thanks to a bunch of grumpy avians, the subsequent deluge of wannabe games has proven to be less than inspiring for the most part.
Happily, King Oddball by developer 10 Tons is one such effort that goes against the grain with well structured, fiendishly engineered puzzles, and well implemented PlayStation features to keep players coming back for more. That said, this is still very much a game in the mould of Rovio's stupendously successful money-printing machine Angry Birds, so its premise might well remain too familiar for some.
King Oddball's plot, such as it is, concerns the titular insane monarch depicted as a rock in the sky (complete with freakishly long tongue) who must decimate the various armies who are intruding upon his territories. Really though, it’s just a thinly-veiled excuse to get some bombastic physics based puzzling going.
At its core, King Oddball is proud to wear its Angry Birds inspiration on its digital sleeves. Each two-dimensional stage is comprised of enemies placed at strategic places which must be destroyed by whip-lashing a rock-based projectile in their direction; with the relevant notice taken of the angle of each shot and the collateral damage of walls, explosive boxes and other objects to achieve optimum destruction.
Where so many like-minded physics puzzlers typically trip up however, is with lazy level design and a poorly judged difficulty curve; two things that King Oddball has down pat with some cleverly constructed bite-sized stages and a gentle difficulty gradient which deftly matches improving player skill with challenges to match.
It’s classic physics destruction based stuff then, but while it sticks so closely to the formula which endeared Rovio and its flock of birds to the world, King Oddball brings with it a number of notable tweaks and features which set it apart from its bird-slinging homage.
Take the number of attacks afforded to the player for example. Beginning with the standard trio of projectiles, it is wholly possible to replenish them by putting the moon-like monarch in their path, his troublingly long tongue ensnaring any rocks which enter his orbit for immediate re-use. Of course, doing this by accident and doing this deliberately is often the difference between failure and success; especially on the later levels where each and every rock in your arsenal counts.