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Niki - Rock 'n' Ball Review

Niki - Rock 'n' Ball LogoNiki – Rock ‘n’ Ball attempts to recreate the classic arcade-style gameplay of titles like Bubble Bobble but comes up short because of bland level design, awkward controls and a sub-par presentation.

The basic idea behind Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball is that Niki’s planet has been invaded and all its inhabitants have been transformed into balls. Niki discovers the mysterious ZeLeLi amulet which allows him to transform into a rock and take on the invading monsters.

Austrian developer Bplus presents Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball as a spiritual sequel to its first WiiWare title PLÄTTCHEN - twist 'n' paint, though the nonsensical story is completely irrelevant to the game itself. Read More…

Making progress in Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball involves clearing stages by ridding them of a set number of enemies and collecting the six ZeLeLi pearls contained within. Niki can eliminate most enemies by simply touching them however some will require Niki to first obtain the ZeLeLi amulet and defeat them while in rock form. Once all of the enemies are defeated and the ZeLeLi pearls are collected, a gate will appear allowing players to exit the level.

This simple sounding concept is made to be quite frustrating because of the controls and physics in Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball. The default control method sees players holding their Wii Remote vertically, tilting from side to side to move Niki and using the A and B buttons to jump and change to rock form respectively.

Niki can Become an Invincible FireballThe default control method is an imprecise, frustrating mess. Thankfully a retro style control method is included in Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball that has players holding their Wii Remote sideways and using the d-pad to move around and the 1 and 2 buttons to perform actions.

While I found the retro controls much easier to use, I still found Niki - Rock 'n' Ball far more difficult than it needed to be because of the odd physics found in the game as well as level designs that simply aren’t very good.

Missing jumps became an all too frequent occurrence during my time with Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball. This really wasn’t much of an issue for the first half of the game’s 40 levels; however the second half of the game becomes infuriating because of level designs that require precision jumps most players will be unable to make because of the twitchy controls and physics.

I found out the hard way that this game does not save your progress until you complete one of its four worlds. This involves clearing ten levels at once, in the same sitting. If you happen to loose all your lives by running into too many enemies or taking longer than three minutes to complete a level, you will be forced to start that world over from the first level.

This is frustrating because clearing ten stages can take a solid half an hour, which is a long session for a pick up and play game such as this. Not only that, many of the stages are not very fun the first time through, let alone a second or third time.

Niki in Rock FormNiki – Rock ‘n’ Ball is one of the most unattractive games I’ve seen in some time on any platform. It is presented with Niki and all of the enemies rendered as 3D polygonal objects and gameplay taking place on a 2D plane.  

When this technique works it looks and plays great as seen in Bionic Commando: Rearmed or Prince of Persia Classic; however in Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball, it comes off as cheap and often ugly, evoking shareware titles of the early 1990s. Many of the colours are washed out and the backgrounds are often too busy and lack contrast, creating a jumbled mess.

The audio really doesn’t fare any better. Music loops incessantly while playing and the tune that plays upon completion of a level through the Wii Remote is a tinny, over compressed assault on the ears.

Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball does have one thing going for it and that is co-op play. At any point in the game a second player can jump in and take control of a second Niki. This can make many of the stages easier; however players must share the pool of lives.

The simple concept of Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball could have made for a fun little game in the vein of the Taito classics Bubble Bobble or Rainbow Islands.  Unfortunately clumsy, frustrating controls and a flawed save system suck the fun out of this title. Those issues in addition to an unattractive presentation make it hard to recommend Niki – Rock ‘n’ Ball to anyone, even at the low price of 500 Wii Points ($5 USD).

Positives:

+ Local Co-op Play

Negatives:

- Two Control Methods, Both are Awful
- Imprecise Jumping Mechanics and Physics
- Downright Ugly Art and Graphics

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Game Forward score: 1/5

Brian J. Papineau > Game Forward

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Niki - Rock 'n' Ball (WiiWare) Quick Facts:


Genre: Puzzle / Platformer
Developer: Bplus
Publisher: Bplus
Release Date: January 26, 2009
Price: 500 Wii Points ($5 USD)
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)