One night a bunch of feral animals snuck onto a farm and made off with the owner’s air-pump, which was all part of their grand scheme to inflate themselves and then sail off through the skies. Not willing to let these Furballs get away with their new air born shenanigans, the farmer’s dog — Beemer — is going to do all he can to blast every last one of these crazy animals out of the wild blue yonder. Thus goes the set up to Furballs (out now, $2.99), a heavily Looney Tunes inspired shooting game from the same developers at WiseApps Inc whom previously brought us Crappy Bird Saga.
Your mission in Furballs — should you choose to accept it — is to blast every last one of your active targets during each stage, while not harming a single hair upon any of the many incorrect targets also whizzing about. This is either accomplished by tapping individual targets with your primary weapon, or by dragging your finger across the screen when using one of your many powerful rapid fire secondary weapons. An active button on the screen’s lower left hand corner will enable you to freely switch between your infinite ammo primary and your limited ammo secondary weapons at any given moment.
On the upper right hand corner of the screen will be a list of whic targets you are expected to destroy in each volley, with the list of required targets growing as you delve deeper into your mission to take the floating furballs out of the sky. If you manage to take out all of the correct targets lobbed at you, and nothing else, then a combo counter will continuously go up with each successfully deflated animal prankster. This is extremely vital to getting a three-star rating on each and every level, let alone finishing the stages at all, as you’ll never get a decent score if you’re always carelessly hemorrhaging points.
Let me make it clear right now that your will have to employ some extremely talented object recognition skills if those Furballs are going to be put down, for the dog’s task on any given level will usually be anything but simple. Often you will required to take out a specific animal while avoiding the plushies that look extremely similar (or sometimes vice versa), which won’t be easy as they can both look exactly the same at first glance. Furthermore, far more complicated situations will arise later on where you are tasked with taking down all the plushies of “Animal A” — ignoring his real life counterparts in the process — while furthermore doing the exact opposite for some other “Animal B”.
Alongside these animals flying about you will sometimes see far more random objects — such as buckets of popcorn — which are also generally on your don’t shoot list, unless the game says otherwise. However, there will also appear present boxes that — when destroyed — will drop either an item that will either award you gold coins or temporarily freeze up your weapon when destroyed. As the special bonus items will drop off the screen almost immediately after appearing, you’ll have to quickly identify whether or not these are safe to shoot as well (and can often look exactly the same at first glance).
These coins — which can quite readily be stocked up — can be used to either purchase additional power-up charges, or ammo for Beemer’s powerful alternative weapon choices. Although the special weapon ammo will eventually run out — requiring you to buy more — the special move charges refill at the beginning of each stage, with the player merely upgrading the amount of uses they wish to begin a stage with. While there are IAP options in Furballs to get extra gold more quickly, simply playing the game will rapidly award large quantities of gold with which to either buy ammo or power upgrades.
Near the end of each level set — known as a ‘season’ in the game — Beemer will eventually come face-to-face with a vaguely Nazi seeming vulture, whom himself is also interested in the pesky Furballs. Even though they both happen to be gunning for the same prey, Beemer — being a true patriot — isn’t about to permit the world to suffer the presence of this obviously fascist avian of ill intent. It is during your fights against this vulture that Beemer’s special weapons will be of the utmost importance, since — unlike the unnaturally floating Furballs — a single hit won’t let out this bad bird’s hot air. Succeeding against the vulture himself will then lead the player to that particular season’s bonus stage, which are prime opportunities to earn massive stockpiles of additional gold coins.
All of this game play is presented with an artistic presentation that would have felt right at home within the classical theatrical Looney Tunes shorts directed by the legendary Chuck Jones. Blasting away at the various inflated creatures — while Beemer spouts off an endless array of mangled pop culture references — will certainly put a smile on the face of many, and definitely fits well within WiseApp’s claims that life is too short to be angry. This over all zaniness is even carried over to the backgrounds themselves, wherein those willing to poke around can often find various interactive elements (such as one where you can literally shoot the entire moon to pieces if you continuously blast away at it).
At this point in the review I would love to start proclaiming that Furballs — even though the game doesn’t necessarily feature the deepest game play ever — is guaranteed to charm all but the most jaded cynics, but there is unfortunately something I must discuss instead. I’ve already mentioned that a player can generally never accrue enough points to finish a stage without taking advantage of the multiplicative properties of Furballs’ combo multipliers. Unfortunately — especially beginning midway through Season 2 — Furballs’ multipliers oddly begin acting in a way that is either completely bugged, or at the very least in a way that largely suggests that the game’s mechanics need more explaining.
Even when you are extra careful to only shoot the correct targets — and nothing else — and have furthermore ensured that you’ve missed none of them either, the game will sometimes reset the combo counter for no apparent reason. Worse yet — during stage 2-4 in particular — the combo counter seemed to refuse to go up no matter how impeccably I performed, leaving me with a dismally unacceptable score no matter how hard I tried. While I can’t easily say whether or not there was a facet of Furballs’ rules that needed more explaining — or if there was an actual bug taking place — or even if Stage 2-4’s layout doesn’t let you shoot the valid targets fast enough, the problem simply wasn’t in my aim.
Worse yet — referring to the game’s tutorial — there is a bizarre issue in Furballs where the in-game text always seems to be partially bleeding off the screen’s edges, making much of it very hard to read. I would have at first thought that this was merely because of my personal device, with Furballs being designed with a very different screen ratio in mind, but this same problem can even be seen on the official iTunes store page’s screenshots. Once it has become quite clear to the user that the game is bleeding off of the screen’s edges, you then can’t help but begin wondering if the combo counter’s problems are being caused by enemies you were never allowed to see to begin with.
Therefore — although I don’t want to have to say such a thing — Furballs has currently been left in a not very playable state, as you will all too quickly hit Season 2 where these problems become impossible to ignore any longer. The upside to all of this is that Furballs’ core mechanics are still genuinely fun, which means that — assuming WiseApps ever releases a patch in the near future — Beemer isn’t quite yet down for the count. So while I can’t yet give Furballs a clean bill of health, I do advise you to actively watch the game’s iTunes page just in case things should ever take an upwards swing for the better.
iFanzine Verdict: The fast paced object recognition shooting challenge of Furballs — mixed with its Looney Tunes inspired whimsy — should have been an easy game to recommend, even despite the somewhat shallow game play. Unfortunately problems involving the combo system — the source of which is debatable — will quickly halt your progress during the game’s second level set, making it effectively impossible to win. While I can not currently give Furballs a clean bill of health, the fact that the core game play mechanics are inherently compelling means that it is definitely worth keeping tabs on this one in case a very needed patch should ever happen to arrive.