Pinball Game with an Edge
Big Boy Pants Studio, a New Zealand team dedicated to bringing old school games with a twist to mobile, has delivered to the masses Robot Crusher Battle Ballz. This fast-moving, robot-crushing game offers up a fresh take on pinball. It’s a simple concept, but delivers enough frustration to keep it interesting. And it almost makes up for the in-app purchases which unfortunately become almost-always necessary as the game progresses.
Just Enough Backstory
You play as the robot Tahi, retired from the peace corps. He’s looking to mete out justice to The Grand Orb, your local robot terrorist. Currently, The Grand Orb is hiding behind his “top boss” title in the Robot Crusher Competition. Apparently competitive pinball is the robot criminal’s game of choice because all of the robots you fight up to The Grand Orb are similarly loathsome. None of this backstory is really important, though. I went through five robots before I actually read through the description of Robot Crusher Battle Ballz to figure out why I was playing these robots in pinball.
It was enough backstory, however, to keep things entertaining, but not too much to get bogged down while playing. And really, no one has the time to remember that your opponent Fish-Na-Bolt is “located in the ancient underwater utopia, Flowmaus”. Especially not when you’re trying to focus on the most opportune time to drop a bomb on his booster.
The Robot Crusher Competition involves challenging in-game robots to life-or-death games of pinball. Only, instead of racking up points, your job is to launch unlimited pinballs to knock all four of your boxes down their respective lanes. (These boxes are filled with the carcasses of obsolete robots, but this information isn’t important to gameplay and isn’t disturbing) Pinball? More like pinbowling, am I right?
And if that wasn’t enough, you get the added pleasure of messing up your opponent’s pinball shots. You can drop bombs on their boosters (those things that shoot pinballs), or explosive crates, or put up freeze gates in their lanes, and more. Generally, you can make everything difficult for the other robot playing alongside you.
This doesn’t sound so bad, until you remember the “life or death” part of it. At some point you’ll lose a round (and you will lose, unless you’re that deaf, dumb and blind kid who sure plays a mean pinball). Then, you get to watch Tahi get crushed multiple times under a hydraulic press. Obviously, this doesn’t mean you lose the game forever; the only thing really getting crushed is your pride. You get to challenge your opponent again and again until you win. Afterwards, you can savor the few seconds in which you get to crush him as many times as you want with that same hydraulic press. You can even go back to previous opponents and challenge them again.
Gameplay itself in Robot Crusher Battle Ballz is simple and straightforward. While the new sabotage weapons that pop up don’t fully explain their meaning, you find out what they do through playing the game just fine. Then, it’s just a matter of fire as many pinballs as you can. Don’t forget to strategically sabotage your opponent, though! And keep an eye on your booster gauge, which helps you determine which lane you’re firing into. Trust me, that thing is hard to master.
Unfortunately, everything comes with a price, and this one is literal. While the app for Robot Crusher Battle Ballz is free, there are certain items that you can buy in the store. These are, namely, every sabotage item, plus all the booster upgrades. You can certainly play the game without them, but you won’t have a chance to delay your opponent. Obviously, he can still sabotage you all he wants. You can get through the first few robots without needing to purchase anything in-app simple enough. There are “gifts” that appear in your lanes, as well. You can collect them by bowling over with one of your infinite pinballs. But as the levels get harder, those in-app purchases get more and more tempting.
This is the kind of paywall I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with: the “patiencewall”. Sure, you can get past it eventually, but this is the kind of game where you might like the mindless repetition. Not getting past robots throws a wrench in the whole operation.
All of this still doesn’t sound like too much of a problem. But there’s also the irksome addition that you have to visit the game store before playing another match. Literally, the play button in Robot Crusher Battle Ballz is covered by a glass barrier that only slides open after you open and close the store. This is more of an annoyance than a necessity to the game. It only functions as a “helpful” hint that you probably can’t take this guy without some prepaid backup.
Those Funky Beats
In other news, the game features a combination of smooth jazz and funky beats for you to play competitive pinball to. It also has an excited crowd of plushie-like aliens and tin-can robots who cheer in the background. The landscape in the background varies from jungle-like views to cityscapes, complete with billboard ads for oil and interstellar cruise ships.
The combination of funky beats, decent graphics, and the good ol’ fashioned repetition of pinball mixed with a fun robot element just about elevates Robot Crusher Battle Ballz above its paywall hindrance. If you are into arcade titles and you don’t mind playing the same robot multiple times to get around said paywall, this is the game for you.
Is It Harcore?
Reviving old-school faves is always hardcore, and while in-app purchases drag the game’s appeal down, its fast-paced pinball-playing is what keeps Robot Crusher Battle Ballz in motion. The backstory is just enough to revive this classic game. Keep your trigger-finger on the booster button and you’ll be fine.