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Ionball 2: Ionstorm (PC) review

 
Ionball 2: Ionstorm logo
Ionball 2: Ionstorm logo
Ionball 2: Ionstorm logo

 
At a Glance...
 

Formats: PC (reviewed)
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
7.0
7/ 10


User Rating
no ratings yet

 

We liked?


  • Takes a classic genre and keeps it simple while adding its own spin
  • Fast soundtrack matches the pace of the gameplay well
  • Quick levels mean that it is easy to break off before frustration kicks in

Not so much?


  • Visually too busy - the ball can get lost in explosions and graphical effects
  • Angled camera view makes judging the angle of bounces less straightforward
  • Decent music, but a very limited amount of it - prepare for repetition
  • Edit (26/8/2014): The new Tower Assault DLC corrects all three of these negatives!


Final Fiendish Findings?

Ionball 2: Ionstorm presents a range of creative levels to be played through, though they can also become overly busy, concealing the ball and cutting down reaction time in a game that is entirely based on reactions. Despite this, with quickly played levels and an energetic soundtrack, Ionball 2 is still a pleasant slice of time to experience.

1
Posted July 1, 2014 by

 
Full Fiendish Findings...
 
 

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. The Breakout-style bat-and-ball game is a good example of this, an idea so basic it barely needs explaining, and to which generations of titles paying homage have tried to add just the right level of complexity while keeping the basics basic. Stepping up for its turn is Ionball 2: Ionstorm, available now.

Ionball‘s developers, IronSun Studios, cite titles including Breakout, Crystal Hammer and Arkanoid as inspiration, and it is perhaps Arkanoid that it owes it’s greatest thanks to. The story deals with robots on a failing space station, but ultimately is setting up reasons to start ricocheting a ball through numerous fields of targets.

It’s not just a repeat of those older classic titles though, with a some extra spins added to the tested concept. Indeed, even the most basic part has been adjusted, as the bricks are replaced with the aforementioned robots, moving around the screen in patterns of varying complexity and often taking multiple hits before exploding. Special enemies also join the mix, with party tricks that include lifting themselves off of the playing field, repairing damaged robots, providing shielding and so on.

Ionball 2 screen

Oh, and there are also bosses…

As with Arkanoid, there are also several types of power-up, although again here given their own spin. On vary rare occasions collectable pods will fall from the playing field, which when caught will split the ball into three – now a classic of the genre. However, the other classic upgrades are bought between levels. Every destroyed robot causes little motes to fall from their debris, which if collected increase your “XP” (more accurately viewed as cash), providing a route to buy six purchasable effects.

Three of these are passive effects, increasing the damage your ball does, increasing the size of the bat, and adding a potential proc where the ball has a chance to do an area effect on contact; the other three upgrades are active, with a triggerable laser, an EMP to stop the field moving for a brief while, and a kamikaze attack – destroying the ball and everything around it.

Ultimately, this is probably all the game needs to be – that simple core idea with just enough complexity added to keep things fresh. And so it is some of the things added on top of this that bring the game back down again. Perhaps the main criticism that can be thrown is at the graphics, from two different approaches. Visually, the game is pretty enough – perhaps not outstanding, but with enough quality to show metallic arenas of colourful robot blocks. However, when everything gets underway it suddenly becomes a lot more confusing. Graphical effects showing explosions where things make contact can be impressive, but also conceal the ball for vital moments that leave you guessing where it might appear from and travelling in what direction. The ball itself carries a clear trail to help judge where it is moving from, but you still need quick reactions when it is ricochetted from a cluster of droids unexpectedly at you.
Ionball 2 screen
The other graphical point on note is the camera angle itself. Think of any classic of the genre, and the viewpoint will be the same – straight overhead, giving a clear view of the whole playing field… and more importantly a clear idea of the angle the ball will bounce at. Ionball has done things a little differently though, putting the camera at a slight angle. Things happening at the far end of the field aren’t as prominent which isn’t a huge issue, but it can also means that bounces can be harder to judge. There are moments when, the ball having shot past you into the gutter you’re wondering why it bounced off that way, before realising it is a matter of perspective…

This is compensated for to a degree – even if the ball has fallen a fraction past your bat you can often still catch it in time, although don’t confuse this with anything to make the game much easier. The challenge is fairly high, with a poor run eating away at your stock of lives quite quickly, and having to divide your attention between collecting the falling XP/cash and the direction of the ball will often cause misses of both. When the game over screen falls, it isn’t actually the end, continuing instead adding three more lives and taking a large bite of your score away (although leaving your bank balance of XP intact).
Ionball 2 screen
Musically the game has a fast paced soundtrack, although one that seems split between metal tracks that wouldn’t seem out of place in Doom, and electronic dance. Both types hold the right sense of speed for the game, even if they do seem in contrast with each other. You’d better like them though – there are very few tracks, so while progressing through the game’s 60 levels you’ll hear them regularly.

In conclusion

Ionball 2: Ionstorm presents a range of colourful and creative levels to be played through. However, as pleasant as the visuals seem, they can also become overly busy, concealing the ball and cutting down reaction time in a game that is entirely based on reactions. The camera angle also adds some confusion to the matter, with the ball bounces not always heading where you’d expect them to. Despite all this, with quickly played levels and an energetic soundtrack, Ionball 2 is still a pleasant slice of time to experience.

Ionball 2: Ionstorm is available now on Steam, Bundle Stars, Indie Gala, Green Man Gaming, and Amazon.


Peter

 
Peter can be described as an old, hairy gamer, a survivor of the console wars of the 1990s, and a part-time MMO addict. He has an especial fondness for retro gaming and observing the progressions in long running gaming series. When scandalously not caught gaming, he can also be found reading comics and fantasy fiction, or practising terrible photography.