App Reviews: Monster Ball

Like Chinese Checkers but with bigger teeth.

Monster Ball (iPhone, iPad)

Price: $2.99

What’s it about?

The game’s creators call it Chinese Checkers on steroids and we think they’re spot on with that description (we always play Chinese Checkers after we’ve taken steroids). Monster Ball is a new spin on an old classic, where two teams of seemingly harmless game spheres grow teeth and get a little monstrous. The gameplay is a variation of the traditional game, allowing a player to move one piece at a time in a turn-based showdown. The nitty gritty is that bigger balls will eat smaller ones and the game is over once a player loses all of their pieces, but the board is littered with devices like bazookas, catapults, band saws and bonus spots that’ll give you an extra boost or grind a winning run to a halt.

How does it look?

Monster Ball comes with ten levels, each with unique starting positions and varying levels of doom and gloom. Full Control Aps, the game’s developer, rips the setting right out of childhood nightmares of boogeymen in closets and monsters under the bed, which goes a long way in explaining the gruesome game piece animations of eating an opponent’s marker. Monster Ball’s unique style makes winning even more gratifying than chess or checkers – when was the last time a bishop grew teeth and snacked on a pawn? Never, that’s when. And any of you Gryfindorks who are about to point out Wizard Chess from the Sorcerer’s Stone can go ahead and sit on a wand.

How addictive is it?

The game offers up solo play against a sometimes-devious but often-too-easy AI. Luckily, turn-based local play and online multiplayer are also available, so once you hone your skills against the chump computer, you can binge yourself on unwitting souls across the Internet. Monster Ball’s most interesting gameplay dynamic is that it almost punishes you for being a ball hog, literally. Eat one or two foes with any single game piece and you’ll quickly find yourself teetering on the brink of an explosion that will lose you that piece. That said, you’ll soon learn that a winning strategy is crafted by spreading the love amongst all of your pieces and that’s probably the warmest, fuzziest sentiment found in a game that’s otherwise focused on fierce competition and big, gnarly teeth.

What’d they screw up?

The biggest qualm we have with Monster Ball is its often janky camera controls. In the majority of our games, we started in such a zoomed in state that we made moves with one piece before seeing the entirety of the landscape before us, including the rest of our own pieces. It’s a mistake that you’ll only make once, but a frustration nonetheless. The game board will rotate, but only through the use of a button-press and not a swipe, a head-scratcher when you realize that the game employs multitouch for zooming in and out. These are minor detractions from an overall great game, though, and once you watch your monster gorge on an opponent, camera movement will likely take a back seat to how much you enjoy the game.

Out of five?

4.5. Ten levels, three game modes and highly addictive gameplay that anyone familiar with checkers can pick up and play. Monster Ball, like Angry Birds, is a must-have game for anyone with a device packing the iOS.

If I like this, what else will I like?

Battleship, Pac-Chomp, interesting spins on classic games