FizzBall, by Grubby Games, is a great fun bat 'n' ball type game for PCs and it suitable for kids and adults alike. Grubby Games are Indie developers and have previously released the excellent Professor Fizzwizzle which I rate highly, although it does get pretty mindbending! Thankfully FizzBall is much easier and nicely mindless, and therefore it's pretty relaxing.
The aim of FizzBall is simple - rescue the various animals from each level. The game is played like a traditional breakout clone in that you have a "bat" which you use to bounce a "ball" around the screen to smash stuff. What's cool about FizzBall is that your ball is actually a bubble and when it makes contact with an animal the animal gets picked up by the bubble and the bubble grows in size. However, you can't pick up a cow in a small bubble, you have to start with small animals until the bubble grows big enough to pick up a cow, or a horse, or a panda! When your bubble is small, you can bump it into trees that drop pinecones and apples which can be picked up by the bubble to make it a little bit larger. There is a limit to the bubble size, which is a shame, as I would like to see a really massive bubble, but I guess that could ruin the game play.
The levels are viewed in a sort 3D isometric way, which is pretty neat, although there are plenty of other 3D breakout games out there. Everything is drawn in a nice cartoony style and each item has it's own unique animation and sound effect. For example, if you hit a cow with the bubble it moos and cats meow, sheep baa, pigs oink etc. (just found out that Microsoft Word thinks "oink" is a spelling error, doh!) The noises and animations are most amusing, especially the moose! My kids (aged 5 and 3) think it's really funny.
Each level is populated with crates, fences and barrels that you can smash. Sometimes they release a bonus item and all the usual bonuses are in the game such as large/small bat, fast/slow ball, score multiplier, sticky bat, ray gun, extra life, protective barrier etc. There are also some cool bonus items such as bulldozer, which makes your bubble smash through everything instead of bouncing; gravity bubble, which attracts nearby objects as it passes; and wacky weather, which makes it rain fruit and pine cones. Also, if you smash a fruit crate you can pick up the fruit to make your bubble larger.
Often you just have to smash stuff out the way to reach animals that are blocked in. Furthermore some animals, like birds, perch on top of crates so you have to smash all of the crates so that the animals move to the ground, and then you can "rescue" them with your bubble. Crates can be piled up quite high in interesting shapes and you have to keep smashing the bottom layer to make the upper ones fall down - this is all very satisfying, although it's worth bearing in mind the aim is not to smash everything on each level, but to collect the animals.
Every few levels there are bonus levels which have different objectives like smashing as many crates as possible, picking up coins and collecting monkeys. These are a fun diversion. The kids version of the game also has a little animal quiz between each level which asks you to identify the animal sound, or click the word for a particular baby animal, or the word for a group of animals. However, the questions about groups of animals are a bit hard for adults let alone kids! Oh and in kids mode you can't loose any bubbles because there is a permanent protective barrier; this is great for my sons who have been paying this game whilst I've been de-cluttering my office - mind you they now fight over who turn it is next.
There are lots of different terrains like woodland, snowy, desert etc and different weather types too. The map screen shows three different groups of islands and the website says there are 180 levels so it should keep you going for quite a few hours. Also the game has lots of "portal pleaser" extras like a cartoon storyboard/plot, hints, trophies, an animal sanctuary, fancy score/stats counting up at the end of each level and they are all nicely done. Some of it's own unique(ish) features include a fan in your bat that you can use to blow the bubble around a bit; the picture and name of the last rescued animal (this is cute), a window showing the last obtained power up (useful), collecting butterflies for extra lives, collecting money to feed the animals in your sanctuary and probably some more stuff that I've missed out.
Any niggles? Well sometimes I find it hard to judge when the ball (sorry, bubble) is going to bounce off the bat due to the 3D - maybe I'll get used to it. Also the bubble often gets hidden behind crates and trees, again due to the 3D nature of the game, and then suddenly reappears. Finally, if you don't like cute stuff, maybe you won't like this game and should just go straight for one of the Bricks of Blah games which are also very good.
So to sum up, FizzBall is an addictive non-punishing breakout game with really cute graphics, nice music, good sounds and loads of levels.
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