King Oddball review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: iOS
Publisher: 10tons
Developer: 10tons
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

My expectations for King Oddball weren’t very high. Considering that a) 10tons’ first PS Vita game, Sparkle, was a straight-up Zuma clone, and b) they spent a big chunk of their PlayStation Blog post promoting the game referencing Angry Birds, I figured there probably wasn’t going to be much in the way of originality on this one.

As such, here’s a surprise: it’s not nearly as derivative as you might think. In fact, if anything the game’s one big flaw is that it’s not derivative enough.

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See, it’s a casual, physics-based game. It certainly has some similarity to Angry Birds in that respect, but the gameplay is different enough that I wouldn’t call it a reskinned clone or anything. Whereas Angry Birds is all about getting the right angles on your shots, King Oddball is more about timing. You’re still flinging things at objects, but you have far less control over them here than you do in Rovio’s ubiquitous timesink. Rather, the titular King Oddball swings rocks back and forth across the screen, and it’s up to you to time his release at just the right moment; time it right, and you can make those rocks careen back and forth across the screen, taking out everything that happens to be in their way. It’s a pretty simple mechanic, but — as is the case with the very best casual games — there are seemingly endless ways to employ it, and King Oddball puts them all to very good, and very addictive, use.

The game’s issue, however, is that it has virtually no replay value whatsoever. Whereas most games of this ilk have realized the inherent value of high scores and three-star rankings, King Oddball has none of that. Once you finish a level, that’s it. There are a few side quests (for lack of a better descriptor) that play with the formula a little, but even in those cases, there’s nothing compelling you to come back and try a level again. True, there are plenty of levels on offer here…but considering how quickly you’re likely to fly through them (because seriously, this game is addictive), it won’t be long until those are all gone and there’s nothing left to do.

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That said, better the developers create a bunch of really enjoyable levels with zero replayability than shoehorning in a three-star system at the expense of fun, right? Obviously, the ideal would be both, but if you’re going to make it an either/or thing, then I suppose 10tons picked the right option to go with.

Grade: B+