Genre: Arcade action
Developer: Tumbleweed Interactive
File Size: 4.0MB
Version Reviewed: 1.2
Requirements: iPhone 2.2 software
Compatibility: iPhone and iPod touch
I once played my own, decidedly less intricate version of Skybound. Late one night in New York City, my friend Joel and I found ourselves in my 10th story apartment with a jar of high bouncing balls and an eight story building across the street. “Say, just how high do these balls bounce?” we wondered. Eight stories, maybe if whipped down from a 10th floor window?
The answer to that is no. Not even close. In fact, the chance that they’ll even bounce towards that building is pretty slim, but that’s beside the point. What I’ve learned now is that I probably could’ve landed one of those balls on that building’s roof if only I’d had some clouds and a touch screen device.
Sky (ward) bound, I wish I was sky (ward) bound
Skybound is a little bit like breakout, only with less to break and perpetually disappearing paddles. The object isn’t to clear everything from the screen, but to keep going up. Gravity is your enemy, and it’s your job to keep your ball bouncing higher and higher. You do this by drawing clouds under it as it falls. Figure out where the ball’s falling, and boost it back up with a cloud. The clouds dissipate quickly, however, and you can’t cover the screen with them. It’s pretty much one at a time, and you have to be fast.
In other words, placement is key, but so is angle. It’s not just enough to keep your ball in the air, but to bounce it at the right angle in order to hit the power-ups and avoid the obstacles. There are walls that’ll make your ball heavier and send it down faster, and balloons that make it lighter and…well, there are a lot of objects floating around that’ll affect the game. Reaching them and discovering them is half the fun.
The morning sun is shining like a white rubber ball
So, the gameplay is fine. Skybound makes good use of the touchscreen, and it’s a unique twist on the time-honored juggling game. There are even three game modes: Easy, Normal and Boss. Easy and Normal are self explanatory, but Boss Mode is actually pretty cool. There, rather than just try to keep the ball in the air, you have to defeat the Observer. It’s a pretty cool little diversion from the core gameplay, as it will force you to play the game completely differently.
That, alone, would get you more life out of Skybound, but if you’re also the competitive type, there is an online score ranking system. Think you’ve made it pretty high? Someone else has gotten higher. I guarantee it.
Cloudy, the sky is gray and blue and cloudy
And yet, it wasn’t the gameplay that won me over with Skybound; it was the graphics. The art direction in Skybound is very cool…pretty much unlike anything I’ve seen in an iPhone game. It seems that many developers these days are content to let their games look like freshman year Flash projects—colorful, but flat. Not Tumbleweed. Their backdrops have texture, and the visuals come together nicely in a manner that makes me wonder why this little ball would want to leave this world in the first place.
Oddly, though, some of the objects you run into don’t fit in at all. They break the illusion of this little environment, and seem to have been placed as a joke. For instance, the Tumbleweed logo. That’s too bad, because it really interferes with an otherwise gorgeous game.
Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy
I can easily recommend Skybound to the casual iPhone gamer. It’s simple to pick up and play, and challenging enough to keep you around for a while. Constantly swiping across the screen can get tiresome after a while, but it’s not as if you’ll be playing the game for long periods. It’s meant to played it bursts, I think, and works quite well in that regard. A lite version is available if you’d like to first try it for free. Or, you can just spend a quarter on a high bouncing ball and attempt to send that skyward. It won’t work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun trying.
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