iPhone & iPad Version
SteamBalls is a new take on the match three genre that uses weights and scales to add to the required strategy. Your goal is to match at least three of the same color horizontally, but the board is constantly shifting depending how much weight is in a particular column. Each ball has a different weight one through nine, and there are eight columns with each pair of two acting as a scale.
When one column weighs more than its pair that column shifts down, and the other column shifts up which changes the alignment of colored balls. The board is constantly shifting based on new balls you drop in, and matched balls that disappear. There is a steam punk style with the balls looking like billiard style.
Matches of three make the balls disappear while match of five vertically collapse the balls into one very heavy ball combining the weight of the five matched balls. There are 14 different colored balls that appear as you progress from level to level. There are also 12 unique special balls that clear columns, bomb sectors, and make color matches. OpenFeint is included for online huh scores and achievements.
SteamBalls adds a new element to the match three genre, and does enough to reinvigorate interest in match three games. SteamBalls adds a ton of strategy to the genre so every single move requires some thought of the greater board as a whole. Where ever you decide to drop a new ball the scales will shift, and the column you drop a ball on gives you the next color you have to use.
Of all eight columns there are two upcoming balls per column, and when you drop a ball in that column you get the next color which changes your next action. The game board is constantly shifting, and you can adjust it easily once you understand which columns are weighted together, and which weight is necessary to cause the scales to shift. As you advance there are more colors to deal with, and the columns will start stacking up towards the top, and it will make it very difficult to find matches.
Luckily with the 12 different special balls you can clear a mass of unmatched balls, and you'll be desperately wanting a special ball to be next in line. As you make matches you'll build up your multiplier which is absolutely essential to increase your score quickly to be even somewhat close to the online leader boards. The best aspect of the game is that every move matters which is very rare in the match three game.
SteamBalls is no doubt a great looking game with the wood game board, and shifting gears in the background. Each ball is glistening, and nicely modeled to look very similar to a real billiard ball. The matches and special balls have glowing animations, and it's nice to see the movie gears of the scales when weight is shifted.
The game controls relatively well as you simply swipe left or right to move where you drop, and then swipe down to drop the ball. This does lead to errors from time to time, like not dropping a ball where you wanted it to go. The save system allows for you to pick-up the game right where you left off which is always worth pointing out.
After playing a couple times there is really no incentive to replay the game. The game is rather slow moving, but that's so you can think about each and every one of your moves. The replay ability is dependent upon liking the challenge gameplay, and finding some replay from online high scores and achievements via OpenFeint.
SteamBalls is a top of the line match three game that provides enough innovation to provide brand new challenge for the somewhat stale genre. The game is nicely designed giving you great visuals and a great soundtrack. The best aspect is that every single move is intertwined requiring you to constantly think and be challenged.
For only $0.99 it's definitely worth picking up even though there isn't the greatest long term replayability.
SteamBalls HD is very similar to the iPhone version, and in this case that's not the best. There seems to be so much wasted space on the iPad version as you still play with the same eight column game board which isn't much bigger than the iPhone version. There is a wood panel surrounding the gameplay area, and though it looks great on the iPad the gameplay doesn't take advantage of the added space.
It would have been nice to see more columns or even taller columns or any type of change, but instead it's exactly like the iPhone version. There is no innovation, and yet it costs $3.99 so I would suggest to buy the $0.99 iPhone version and play it on the iPad at double pixel. SteamBalls HD is not worth it simply by charging three more dollars for the same exact game with practically no differences.