Snowball Run, by MacPlay
Posted: 17-Jan-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: MacPlay Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Jim Melton Class: GAMES

Overview
Snowball Run is an arcade-style game where you guide a happy little penguin, precariously balanced on a large snowball, through a variety of obstacles on his way through the goal. Imagine yourself trying to balance on a snowball and roll it around and you have some idea of how the game works.

Game Play
The game clearly employs some kind of physics model; the faster the penguin is rolling forward, the less responsive he is to lateral (left/right) moves. However, the little guy has some powerful legs, since he can go upwards of 100 mph on the straightaways. Achieving precision control, as required in some levels, is extremely tricky.

Control is through the arrow keys on the keyboard (up = forward; down = stop; left/right = turn), although the mouse or game pad can be used. I found the mouse unsatisfactory, because there was no visual feedback on how the game interpreted the mouse motion (is the mouse moving forward, turning, or slowing down?). The arrow keys can also be frustrating, because they don't provide fine-grained control. I did try a game pad with the four directions mapped to the arrow keys, but I didn't try it in mouse mode.

The game includes a tutorial level that illustrates the basic facets of the game, and beginner, intermediate, and advanced modes. It is necessary to complete the beginner levels before the intermediate mode is unlocked; similarly advanced is only available after intermediate has been conquered. In total, there are 75 levels.

Each level consists of a track suspended in air. The penguin starts at one end and there is a goal gate at the other. In between are a variety of hills, jumps, holes, turns, and obstacles. Some tracks have a railing around them (although with enough speed it is easy to jump the rail), but most do not. Each level also has a timer associated with it; the faster you complete the level, the higher your score. But take too long and the penguin's snowball melts, costing you one of your "lives".

It is probably worth noting that in this family-friendly game the penguin never dies. He has a parachute that he deploys if you succeed in rolling him off the edge of the track. A game consists of three "lives", although additional lives can be earned by collecting fish that are littered across the tracks.

There is no "jump-to-level" feature, so you must conquer each mode at one sitting. Fortunately, when your game is over, you are given the option to continue from the level you were working on. Otherwise, the game would be unpleasantly tedious. A "jump-to-level" feature would also be helpful for working on a particular level that is exceptionally difficult.

Summary
This is a classic arcade-style game, requiring eye/hand coordination. Some of the levels are quite enjoyable, others are extremely frustrating. The game must be played through sequentially; being unable to resume the game at a higher level can be annoying. The controls are simple (my 5-year-old daughter enjoys the tutorial levels, although she likes to send the penguin flying over the edge as much as making it through the goal). Having played the game through to completion, I am unlikely to come back to it again.

Pros

  • Easy to comprehend, polished interface
  • High-quality graphics
  • Variety of puzzle types
  • 75 levels, 3 difficulty levels

Cons

  • Game controls lack fidelity
  • No "jump-to-level" feature


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice