We live in a digital age yet as with anything, the simple things in life are the best. Before modern gaming devices and smartphones, back when I was a lad, I remember going away with my parents and buying a ‘labyrinth’ puzzle from a small gift shop. Funnily enough, this was also the first app I bought when I got my first iPhone 3gs as well – showing that everything will one day go digital. If you don’t know what a Labyrinth puzzle is, it’s a small maze which you have to move a ball through by using handles or levers on the side of the unit. However, I know what you’re thinking – Rob, why are you talking about a wooden toy from the 80’s?
Super Amazeballs is a Virtual Reality representation of the old Labyrinth puzzles. It also reminds me a lot of some old Crystal Maze challenges where they have to rotate a giant maze in order to free the ball/crystal. It’s also one of the most entertaining and fun puzzle games I’ve played in VR in the last few months as it gets very frustrating while remaining fun and enjoyable with it’s “just one more try” attitude it imprints within you. The one down-side, the game is currently in American regions only – yet the European version is currently with Sony for approval according to the developers.
*All images are snapshots of the social screen captured on PC – the quality is much higher in-game*
As this is a puzzle game, no story is required or provided, what is required though is a lot of patience and perseverance as you’ll find out. Whereas Labyrinth puzzles were small wooden cube boxes and the Crystal maze versions were big semi-spheres which could be rolled in any direction, Super Amazeballs goes one further and gives us a giant transparent sphere which we move with our hands. The beauty about VR is that you can use the move controllers and literally reach out, grab, and rotate the sphere with one or two hands – both hands offer more stability and accurate rotations but is also more prone to silly mistakes.
The controls are perfect though, I never had any issues with it, you just have to remember that slow and steady wins the race – until you get onto the tricky levels! It took me a few levels to fully get to grips with the control scheme though as it is a bit daunting at first as the slightest nudge could send your ball off the rails and into virtual doom. Also, being in VR, you can literally spin the sphere to whatever position you want in order to get a better look at it – just be very, very careful. One thing which was a little annoying is that you can’t move – you are stationary in one position, which is fine, but I would have liked it if you could use a few face buttons on the controller to rotate yourself around the orb instead of having to do it manually as it’s so easy to mess up. Not only that, if you spend a while rotating it to a decent position and then fall off, when the ball spawns, your view also returns back to its default location – making all that time and effort pointless.
The game itself is simple in premise yet hard to master. Get your ball from point A to point B without falling off – simple. Try telling that to my friend Nalyo Gaming on YouTube who had a few ‘issues’ whilst playing it on his channel! The issue is, you start off with the ‘easy’ tracks, where you have a path with small barriers on the side – so the hardest thing here is when the ball has to move to another dimension (for example, you have to spin the sphere up so it drops onto a lane which was previously pointing upwards, move it along a path and then back down on to the other path whilst moving the sphere in 3D space).
Each level itself also comes with a few goals – complete it in a certain time, don’t fall off and don’t take any shortcuts – so there are a few reasons to replay the same levels as you get better at them.
There are five levels of difficulty/styles which range from these easy ones to the down-right insane levels. Some of the ‘medium’ ones no longer have you moving the ball on a lane but rather along two parallel metal bars like || ! There is nothing stopping you falling off the edge, so you have to be really careful and cautious. These also require you to flip the sphere quickly in order to progress in some areas as well. Some levels are more elaborate than The Goblin Kings (David Bowie) Labyrinth from the movie Labyrinth with more twists and turns than a 70’s disco! It gets pretty crazy.
Not to mention the ‘tricky’ levels, so called because of the ‘tricks’ and the fact they are also ‘tricky’. This one requires you to purposely apply quick motions with the controller in order to launch the ball from one rail to the next – as you imagine, it’s not that easy..
One of the things I really enjoyed about this game is the way it handles physics as everything felt so real. Seriously – if you watch my video below you will hear how happy I am whilst playing the game! The movement of the ball, the momentum, the weight the ball has when performing a jump – it’s all akin to a real ball bearing and it’s real-world physics. This is what made the learning curve a little steep in my opinion as you have to act as if you are actually there and the whole thing is real. If you nudge the sphere then it’s game over. If you go too fast, then it’s probably game over. If you try and look cool by jumping about the place in order to get to shortcuts, then it’s most definitely game over – although you’ll look cool in the process.
Now on to one of the things I found a little confusing at first and had to ask the developers about – the online leaderboards. At the end of each successful run, you are presented with a bar chart which is labelled the leaderboard. It shows which ‘bar’ relates to you but with no context on what the bar means, what the numerical relation is, which side (left or right) is the best, and who actually got what. When I queried this, I was advised:
There are online leader boards in the psvr version, but because we used our own leaderboard system and couldn’t tie it directly to PSN IDs we chose to remove the names. The game shows a global histogram of how you scored relative to the world.
I was also advised that if the game sells well – Which I imagine it will with this glowing review and once it hits the Worldwide market, then they will see about changing this to show the names, it will just take a bit of work by the sound of it. I really hope one day this is put in place, or even if it ran two leaderboards, one for the world (with PC players) and one for PSN only with the PSN names so that you can try and beat your friends. I usually review the same games as Naylo above, so I like trying to beat his scores and him mine, whilst recording!
One of the other things I really enjoyed is how you pick your level. When you enter the stage select menu, it isn’t on a wall which you select – nope – the left move controller displays a hologram of five balls. You use the face buttons to switch left and right and scroll between the various difficulties (revealing 25 levels). When you find one you want, pick it up with your right hand and throw it on the ground – the orb will grow and the level will instantly begin.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the ‘hardcore mode’ and boy is it hard! I play it a little in my video below, at the end of the video, and I end up rage quitting – it’s basically the same courses but if you fall off then you have to start from the beginning every single time. Usually, in non-hardcore, if you stop your ball from rolling for a few seconds, it will create a checkpoint – so if you fall, you will respawn there. Hardcore is just a sadistic option which loves to watch you squirm and die. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that I gave up on that mode!
In terms of the settings, the developers have thought of everyone here. Usually, in a VR game, you can reset your point-zero which will sometimes reset your frontal position and sometimes it just re-calibrates the move controllers in terms of distance from the camera – in Super Amazeballs, it’s the latter. It doesn’t reset your frontal viewpoint, but the options menu itself does help. You can adjust the size of your balls (sorry, I had to say it :P) and you can manually adjust the position a little to make it best for you.
Graphically, there isn’t much to fault. Not because it looks amazing, but because there isn’t much to it! You have the sphere and the maze within it as well as you small ball bearing – that’s it. However, these three elements look great in VR and really look and feel like your stood/sat right there. Before you load up the level, if you look around it appears you are on a floating platform high above a purple-tinted futuristic city. this landscape doesn’t change but if I’m being honest, you will spend 100% of your time concentrating on the task at hand rather than looking around yourself. That being said – the environment around you is also rendered really nicely.
The choice of soundtrack was kind of fitting but also a little strange. It’s like a techno-rave party going on which doesn’t help when you’re trying to concentrate on what you’re doing. For the most part, I enjoyed the music but I did turn it off and put on something a little less hyper when I was attempting the later levels. I had to in order to retain my sanity with the number of deaths I was incurring! The sound effects of the ball itself rolling around is a small thing but it’s so good. Especially when you are on the metal rail tracks as you can hear the metal ball bearing rolling around perfectly – things like this really builds your immersion.
I’ve noticed online that some people say they have had problems with tracking and the controllers causing the orb to spin or flick when not intending to, I never experienced any of this. The only issue I had was the tracking of the headset as I would drift over to the left slowly, in terms of my view. But for me, that happens with a few games so I don’t know if it’s my headset, the lighting or a combination of both elements. The controls though worked fine – as you can see in my video below.
My first 25 minutes playing the game:
Super Amazeballs is amazeballs… It looks and feels perfect in VR, like you’re really there controlling the giant orb with your own hands. It will entertain you, frustrate you, test your patience, and keep you coming back for more with its addictive gameplay. You have an online cross-platform leaderboard which gives you an indication of how well you are doing compared to other players and the hardcore mode will really put you to the test. This is a perfect example of how to reimagine a puzzle game in VR in a way which isn’t possible in any other format. I can’t recommend this game enough to owners of a PSVR headset – it’s $5, which is essentially £3.70 – Such a bargain!
- The levels are so creative and imaginative - they wouldn't work in anything other than VR
- The sound effect of the ball is perfect - everything feels so real
- Great VR calibration tools to readjust the size and position of the orb
- Very addictive gameplay
- Super cheap for what you get
- Contains 25 levels, which you could technically complete in a few hours
- No option to move around the orb, meaning you could knock it when manoeuvring it manually
- The leaderboards are a bit cryptic
- Some users have complained about tracking issues - I never encountered any though