Imagine you’re lining up that perfect shot in a game of pool when one end of the table suddenly shifts up, letting all those painstakingly positioned billiards slide into a heap that starts bouncing around like some atomic-scale model of a nuclear explosion in progress. If you’re patient enough to wait out the disturbance, that perfect shot might open up again — and if you miss, all the haywire bouncing will begin anew. That’s kind of what it’s like to play Bobby: Space Adventure (Out Now, $0.99), a brand new physics and action puzzler courtesy of Nooskewl and Studio Dereka.
If you missed our preview, “Bobby” refers to the little Bullet Dude under the player’s control. His one purpose for existing is to knock green balls into Hypnotic Spirals of DeathTM; once these portals of certain doom are satiated they’ll offer Bobby safe passage to the next puzzle, where more green balls await. My likening the game to pool and Lunar Lander definitely feels right in hindsight: Bobby is a game of recognizing opportunities that arise out of chaos, and having enough mastery over its physics to know when to gun it with Bobby’s rocket thruster versus when to hit the brakes.
Packing in 65 levels and the usual trapping of Game Center achievements, Bobby serves up plenty of content for genre fans to chew on. Its simple premise remains the same throughout but the developers mix in lots of level design quirks, ranging from run-of-the-mill wall barriers to objects that alter the physics of their immediate surroundings.
What I’ve sensed since the preview writeup is that level design evolves along two distinct tracks: one type of level challenges the player’s ability to keep Bobby from getting sucked into exit portals prematurely, while the second tests the player’s precision under duress of mazelike barriers and bouncy physics. The first type fares excellently in providing a fun real-time challenge; the latter category sometimes marches right across the line separating difficulty from pure tedium, or at least that’s how a fair number of players are liable to feel. Some barrier formations seem lovingly crafted to leave the player praying for lucky breaks, and others demand either clairvoyance or formidable trial-and-error experimentation. The hellish Level 18 alone may go down in history as being The Toughest Level in Any Action Puzzle Game, Ever, and boldly declares that the developers knew precisely what they were doing here.
Bobby shares a feature somewhat reminiscent of the recent Cavorite in leaving some wiggle room for players to move on without fully satisfying a level’s ball-obliterating requirement. If an update relaxes the conditions under which this happens it could increase Bobby‘s appeal significantly; as currently implemented, it doesn’t offer any help to the player with Level 18 at least. As things stand in the release version, Bobby will end up being favored by action puzzle fans who are in search of a truly cutthroat approach to challenge.
Bobby‘s virtual controls feel spot on for the most part: two directional buttons for clockwise versus counter-clockwise rotation of the eponymous space bullet, one for making him surge forward, and one for placing him in a state of rest. Despite the UI’s sufficient size the left-hand directional button and right-hand brake button do suffer just a bit for being placed so near the corners of the touchscreen, where the player’s fingers are most at risk for slippage from the control area.
Bobby is visually simple but hand-drawn for smoothness on Retina Display. On the audio side, players will probably make use of its friendliness to external music once its single track wears thin; also of interest will be the sound effects switch, as the bouncing ball effect can overwhelm one’s ear buds in levels that serve up dozens of green bubbles. The average player should count on Bobby for four to six hours of real-time physics challenge, with levels growing longer as the player progresses.
iFanzine Verdict: If you’re a physics puzzle or action puzzle fan who’s sick and tired of these genres treating players with kid gloves — boy, does Bobby have something for you! Its fun and unique concept should attract the interest of many, but it will be most enjoyed by genre diehards who possess sniper-like patience and skill.