IonBall 2: Ionstorm
Developed by: Ironsun Studios
Published by KISS Ltd
Reviewed on PC
Ionball 2 is a sequel to Ionball that was released on the Xbox 360 three years ago in 2011. Whilst the original was released only on a console, this sequel is only available on the PC platform from Steam, I have to admit now that I have not played the original title so I cannot compare the two titles and will be looking at this as a stand-alone game.
This game bears a very strong resemblance to Breakout that was released way back in 1976 in the arcades; I can remember playing one of the many ports of this for the Amiga around twenty years ago. The basic structure of Ionball has been around since the days of Pong, you have a paddle that moves along one side of the screen and you use this to keep your ball in play, in Breakout it was used to destroy a wall, in Ionball you destroy robots. Let the ball drop out of the screen, like in a game of pinball and you lose a life. As I said it is a basic structure that has been around since the dawn of games, so how have IronStorm Studios brought this into 2014?
Firstly the basic Breakout formula has been given a Sci-fi twist; you are playing to destroy robots that have taken over a space station. That is about as much as the story goes, but I really don’t think this game needs one, after all you are just using a paddle to bash a ball at robots. There are various differing levels, over 60, for you to play through. The levels have been given the sci-fi look with some nice looking backgrounds and Space Invaders looking robots floating around. These robots vary in each level, with different numbers and formations thrown at you, to try and make each level unique. It has to be said, after playing through a few of them they do begin to blend together, but this is to be expected for a game like this.
As I mentioned, you control a paddle at the base of the screen and use it to bounce a glowing ball towards the robots in the level, you control this by using the mouse and I have to state my first major problem with this game, there are no options to control the sensitivity of the controls. I found this quite surprising that the only motion input had no options. To start with I hated how sensitive my movements were, the only way I could change it was by going into settings on Windows and adjusting it there and then re adjusting it after I played the game. A very long winded and annoying way to change something that should have been integral to the game.
Added to the overly sensitive controls the speed of the ball is insanely quick, most games of this type start off slow with the ball speeding up with each hit off of the paddle, not here, it started off quick and again the lack of options in gameplay was frustrating, there were no options to turn down the speed or the difficulty. I understand that this game has been designed to be difficult but it would be nice to have a learning curve, you are thrown in at the deep end and if your reflexes aren’t up to speed from the first hit of the ball then you will spend a lot of time restarting, I like difficulty in games, but I hate frustration when the difficulty is derived from the controls.
The music in the game is like the rest of the game, high speed and frantic, there are varying tracks from dance, techno and heavy rock, I found it weird and slightly distracting, and most of the songs in the background didn’t seem to fit with the sci-fi settings of the game. Visually it looks OK nothing terrible but also nothing amazing, not that you will get much chance to admire what’s on the screen, take your eyes off to admire anything and chances are the ball will go flying off the bottom, you have to concentrate if you are to master this, it is not really a game you can jump in and out of, at least not for me. As expected there are a variety of upgrades you can buy with the XP you earn by destroying robots, these are the usual widening of the paddle to make it a little easier, to purchasing weapons such as EMP’s to slow down the enemies or lasers and machines guns to destroy them.
Overall I have to say that there are some great signs of potential in this game, the difficulty level is high but if you are aware of this when you go in and are prepared to be patient and get used to the speed then you will enjoy it. With many levels and an online leader board to climb there is a fair amount to keep you busy, it’s not perfect though with a few tweaks needed to make it more accessible but it can be frantically fun to play, especially if you relish a challenge.