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Wall Buster Game Review (iOS)

Today I got to play an AR brick breaker game called Wall Buster. If you don’t know, I am a fan Space Invaders, Pong and Arkanoid. There is always a warm place in my heart for those classic arcade games from the 70’s and 80’s.

I did try playing similar games like AR PingPong, but I ended up stop playing them because they were pretty bad and very boring.  Wall Buster, on the other hand, was a surprise, because like some of the other similar games that I’ve tried, I actually enjoyed playing it. In this review, I want to share with you my experience with this brick breaker ARKit game for iOS. I played the game on my iPad (2017).

What is Wall Buster?

Wall Buster belongs to the Brick/Block Breaker game genre. In this particular game, the player needs to move a platform which he controls and completely break the entire wall of bricks in front of him.

3D ball breaks a textured wall in Wall Buster game
As you can see, I’m doing quite a lot of damage there, but I was just getting started. I failed at this level so many times you won’t believe it.

The game plays inside a square container with only the side behind the player being open. The player needs to make sure the ball doesn’t leave the container’s area or else he loses one life. You have three attempts to try to break the wall, if you fail it’s game over.

Yesterday I’ve played a game called AR-Ball. In this game, you don’t need to break anything but hit the ball so it touches the goal area. The game has the same gameplay mechanics as in Wall Buster but with a different goal. However, AR-Ball was frustratingly slow at times and it didn’t have the physics and the smooth gameplay I was looking for in this type of game.

Let’s check out some gameplay, shall we?

Wall Buster nailed the physics really good and the game feels very fluid and responsive. The ball doe movement isn’t too fast for the gameplay area nor too slow. The difficulty of the game is tightly related to the limited field of view and game area. Once you the ball gets out from your field of view it’s very hard to locate exactly where it is, and if it’s out of your field of view, it’s probably already on its path out of the arena’s boundaries and it’s too late to hit it.

Wall Buster also have some optional bonus level where you need to break some sort of an object like a big teacup or a big antique floor clock.  Some of them have a timer, so the player is forced to move around the arena to quickly and hit the ball in the direction of the object and smash all of its parts before the time runs out.

The game has very simplistic visuals. There is the ball, which changes colors each time it hits a wall, a boundary, a barrier or your iPhone or iPad device. The wall is made of simply textured square bricks.  The game has that retro-style visuals and sound effects that brought up some really good memories from the old arcade days. Some of you might like it, some of you won’t. I do think that the sound effects should be related to the type of texture use.

I think if the developers have decided to use a sound of glass (which I really like) maybe it’s better to use a glass texture instead. The wall texture just look not related to anything. For example, I have no idea what type of material that cloudy blue texture is. When it breaks it looks like a brick, but if it’s a break, why a glass sound? I think there is room for better material visual representation here.

It’s a Difficult Game!

Having said that, this game is not about the visuals but about the gameplay itself. It’s a very challenging game. I’ve played like 40 minutes trying to pass level 2. It was so frustrating failing at the very last block, however, I was so addicted to it that I couldn’t stop. Of course, I also needed to write a review about this game, so I can’t just surrender. After finishing that level I felt such a great satisfaction from being able to finish this level, but at the same time, I was a bit worried about what’s going to come up next.

Break teacup with a ball in augmented reality
An optional bonus round. This time I need to break the teacup but I only have one minute to do so.

Some of the levels also have one or more moving barriers that will interfere with hitting the wall. One time the barrier was actually helping me out because the ball was stuck behind it and it aligned it’s pathing exactly towards the last pieces on the top-left corner.

In this game you can just stand still, you have to move all the time. The ball always changes its direction and speed. The optimal gameplay is to try to control the direction of the ball so it won’t hit the side walls and follow a straight line directly to the piece you want to hit. If you hit it at an angle it will change its direction, so it’s important to be accurate at which part of you hit it.

Wall Buster game screenshot
This image from the press release, I haven’t reached that level yet, have you?

Some bricks might have a special property, like a power-up. If you hit the golden brick, the game will use a bullet-time effect and slow down the ball’s movement. This is a great time to move closer to the ball and try to hit it a few times directly towards the bricks that you need to eliminate. Just make sure that after like two tried you get back a bit because it will start moving fast again and you don’t want to have the ball behind you.

I played this game a lot and haven’t finished it yet. I don’t intend to stop until I finished all around without exception. There is also a leaderboard that shows you top results at the end of the round. If you fail it shows you a completion percentage and if you win it shows you the time it took you to finish it.

Wall Buster has 12 levels, but the developers mentioned in the game’s description that additional themed level packs are coming soon, so stay tuned.

AR Experience

Wall Buster is an ARKit game but it doesn’t require surface detection. The game will just deploy the level in front of your phone no matter which wide you look. In the beginning, there is a notice that asks the player to play the game in a well-lit place, which is recommended for ARKit games, but I was able to play it in a completely dark environment as well. It’s actually was a fun experience because the colors pop out more.

I didn’t experience any issues and the game is very comfortable to play even in very small areas. There is no option to resize the gameplay area. I think you need at least 1.5 by 1.5 meters (4.9 x 4.9 feet) to feel comfortable playing the game. Keep in mind that the game does require constant movement. Sometimes you can stay in the same place and just move the iPhone or iPad to hit the ball. However, it limits your capabilities in controlling the pathing of the ball and you are probably going to fail if you just stand still. I tried it, and it didn’t work out. I found myself moving frequently and stretching my arms to reach the ball at high points and crouching to reflect it when it moves toward my legs.

Conclusion

It’s amazing how such a simple-looking game can translate into such a fun, challenging and addictive AR experience. The physics are spot on and the brick explosion animation and the bullet-time effect are really cool to watch.

I personally would have like to see more cool power-ups that will change the dynamics of the game. For example, having the option for a larger or smaller ball, power-ups that increase or lower the speed of the ball, a power-up that changes the ball shape so it’s movement is much less predictable, etc. I also would have like to see more cool and flashy visual effects, I think the game could feel more arcady and thrilling with all those things added.

I think it will be nice to also have the side walls covered with breakable objects to make the gameplay look more “explosive”. I would have liked to also see a different level design, maybe get out of the strictly rectangular gameplay area can add some more interesting flavor to each level. Having said that, there is nothing wrong staying loyal to the classic game roots, and I respect this decision if this was the attention of the developer in the first place.

The developer nailed down the core gameplay correctly and therefore I was able to enjoy playing it in AR, unlike some other similar ARKit games that I’ve played before. I enjoy having the option to physically move around the environment and get close to the ball inside the 3D game environment.  This what makes Wall Buster such an enjoyable game. It’s not innovative nor visually impressive, but the gameplay feels good. I’ve played many games with superb visuals, only to get bored two minutes later.

The game is free, but some of the levels are hidden behind a paywall but I think the experience is well worth it—Recommended!

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