Games which are substantially clones of other games, like your usual Tetris, swap 3 or most portable games coming out lately, will give more or less the same experience, gameplay wise. Although the gameplay featured in all these clones is almost identical, there is some feature which tries to stand out to make the difference between this game and the other; a feature by which the game will be remembered. Some implement a captivating soundtrack to ensnare the audience while other games use graphics or visual effects to impress. Then there are games which try more than one standout feature, often with little success. IonBall 2: IonStorm fits the description very well.
Developed by Ironsun Studios, IonStorm incorporates the mechanics of the famous Breakout; a board, a ball and a whole lot of blocks to destroy. The game features only one mode, comprising 60 levels of block-wrecking carnage, along with a couple of boss fights. The levels are divided in floors, where once you finish all the levels in one floor grants you access to the next. The floors are presented neatly, with a wheel outlining all the levels accessible to you, which upon clicking will show a hologram of the layout of said level, just to give an indication of what is to come. Apart from the layout of levels, there is also a guide to the different types of enemies you will encounter, dubbed Codex. There is also an upgrade menu, which gives the opportunity to upgrade either the board with weapons or to upgrade different items such as ball damage, board length and the like. Unfortunately this Codex is the only piece of information that is given, with the player left to figure out upgrades and the rest from a couple of hints in the upgrade shop.
The game is like most, meaning that you have 3 lives and if you lose the ball 3 times it is game over. In the event of losing all your lives, a chunk of your total score is deducted from the overall score of your campaign and taken back to the main menu, which is useless. From the main menu one can only go back into the game where you left off, restart a new campaign from scratch or quit, which makes the process of “logging” back into the game very tedious, especially on some levels where one may find extreme difficulty in beating. The deduction of score is well thought though since your score will reflect how well you did in the game, and netting a score of several zeroes while you have even more deaths will not be a good reflection of skill.
Let’s now take it to the most important thing, gameplay. The game is fast flowing, colourful and packed with chaos once the ball and the board part ways. The board and the stage may seem small compared to other similar games, but one will feel at ease after an hour or two.As the codex describes, there are a multitude of different enemies who will appear gradually as you make progress. The game starts as soon as you enter the first level, with no instructions or tutorial level given. The tutorial is not needed for the game because of its simplicity, but for the power ups and enemies, who are not your average breakout blocks. There is also a beam which, if the ball is kept for a set time in play, destroys a block or a cluster of blocks at random. This was confusing to see without knowing what it is, almost thinking it was some glitch.
In terms of progression, the game features an increasing level of difficulty, with no choice in the beginning to go either easy, medium or hard. IonStorm has a good learning curve, meaning that once you get the hang of things, you will not have great troubles overcoming early stages. Boss fights are also planned fairly, and even though they add nothing to the innovation in the game, they are fun and balanced.
Another feature found in the game is background music. While the music on its own is arguably good and may suit the tastes of a couple of ears, it does nothing to enhance the experience of gameplay. It is almost as like you plug in your own mp3 player and listen to your own music while playing since none of the songs featured in the game are compatible with it. They are a long way from distracting the player but their contribution to the whole game is almost non-existant.
Apart from gameplay and sound, a game may stand out thanks to its visuals. Obviously, graphics and visual effects are not everything but they do contribute on their own. In this case the colours are vibrant and beautiful, but they are not always a pleasure to the beholder. For instance, the ball leaves a green trail behind it, and when it passes through green backgrounds, the ball is almost made invisible because it blends with these backgrounds. This invisibility also exists sometimes when the orb strikes a block, because of a red glow on impact which may focus the view on the glow instead of the ball.
Collectively, all these pieces craft a game which is worth the time playing, even though its only replayability consists of a score leaderboard, where one may boast his scores with the world. It is not that different from this type of games but its small distinctions, apart from the unfitting music, is a good welcome among games of its genre.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.