By: Quinn Potter
Independent game developer 10Tons, the Finnish team behind Sparkle Unleashed, has released a new puzzler across multiple platforms. The difference in these two games, however, is both profound and surprising. The elegant graphics and lush soundtrack of Sparkle Unleashed are gone.
In its stead is Baseball Riot, which is aimed at a slightly older player and has the feel of quickly produced, computer-generated graphics with little or no soundtrack. This quirky new physics-driven puzzler manages to get your attention, but not necessarily in a good way.
Controls are limited, easy to master and cannot be remapped. No special skills or tricks to unlock.
This is definitely a graphically challenged game. The characters look like they were mass-generated by a computer program. There’s no depth of field on the screen. There are no interesting details – either humorous touches or special effects that draw you in. The color palette is limited to primary colors. This might play well on a small mobile screen, but it seems lacking on the Xbox One.
The soundtrack is boring and repetitive. The main character has an exaggerated grunt every single time he bats the ball (which he does frequently). The ball rattles around the screen and sounds kind of like popcorn popping, and it gets pretty annoying. Those that get emit a slightly quieter grunt (one sounds more like a burp). The sound of glass breaking is fine, but five dopey electric guitar chords that announce the end of a level will definitely diminish your enthusiasm.
Step up to bat, toss the ball and take a swing. The ball will randomly bounce around the screen, hitting enemies such as umpires, catchers or obnoxious fans. Enemies will typically grunt and pass out, if you hit them. Like the actual game of baseball, three strikes means you’re out.
In other words, there are three balls per level (and an additional ball if you knock out three enemies in a row with one ball). Gameplay is cumulative, so the people you knock out on the first ball stay out until after your third (or bonus ball, if that happens).
As in billiards or pool, you are supposed to use the laws of physics to have a fairly accurate prediction of where the ball is going to go. Except you really don’t know where the ball is going or why it ends up there — at least the screen is fixed so that none of the obstacles or players move, which is good.
There is a white circular target that is supposed to show you where the ball is headed, but it’s really not much of a help. The ball moves so quickly that it’s difficult to get a sense of which direction the ball is going to go after hitting a person or object. After 40-50 swipes at the ball, you might actually pass a level.
If you think the skills you’ve learned from each level will help you improve your play, however, you’re wrong. In fact, once you pass a level, there’s little feeling of success because it’s not like there was any actual skill or learning curve involved. So, yeah, move up a level and you get some more enemies or a slightly different layout. With such limited variety, there’s little motivation to move on.
There is a map to complete, so seeing the end of a region might generate a little excitement. Better collect your gold stars on the way, however, or be prepared to replay a few levels so you have enough to fly onto a new region of the map.
Believe it or not, you’ve got over 100 levels to complete before you complete a map of the “Known World” and finish your season. There’s no AI (good or bad), no narrator, no co-play, so it’s just you. Good luck!
Baseball Riot is the kind of game that might be entertaining to play on a cell phone if you’re looking for a way to pass time, but it’s woefully inadequate for the Xbox One. Unfortunately, the 10Tons team seems to have lost a bit of their sparkle on this one.