Game Reviews

A merciless review of Jeffrey Winn’s Roll a Ball

A few weeks ago, Jeffrey Winn’s story made many fans in IndieWatch. It’s not every day that a guy who lives in the streets releases a game on the Android market. I was really curious to see his game and make a review; a serious and unbiased review in the face of his moving situation. So I just focused on the game and on what he did right and what he must still work on in order to polish his game. So let’s get started!

The Game

Roll a Ball is a gyroscope based game for the Android platform. Your goal is to move a ball over stars to score the higher as possible. To make things harder, you have to move the ball over pads that keep moving up and down through the screen as you play.

As many might know, gyroscope based games can be really tricky to develop, since the sensitivity of the gyroscope is different across devices. Winn made a smart choice of opting to change the game sensitivity, but even so, the player could go through some hard times trying to control the ball. That problem with the gyroscope pattern is one of the reasons why we don’t see many new games using it especially the ones that require a fine control of objects on the screen. It’s a risky choice, but I really like the result Winn achieved, and I managed to have quite a good control on my Moto G.

Another choice that I consider to be just as risky, is the use of colliders on the platforms, making the control of the ball really complex every time that the player needs to change the platform since the collider makes a “ledge”. If the player is too slow, the collider will drag the player to the abyss; if the player is too fast, he’ll run over pass the platform. I don’t know if this is what the dev had in mind, but this, for me, is a letdown since this could add up to the gyroscope problem and make the game really hard to control. There are numerous ways to fix this problem, like changing the alignment of the platforms, by making the one that the player stands on a little higher on the Y axis than the other ones, or maybe by changing the form of the colliders. The feedbacks of the game are simple but

The feedbacks of the game are simple but work well, like the sound of every star taken and the text message of the multiplier.

Another aspect that the player can notice is the music volume. Remember to let all music on the same volume. I remember that, the first time I played the game, I hadn’t listened the sound from the main menu, but I do remember the gameplay music.

The game interface doesn’t have many words, which makes it really simple to translate to other languages, but some icons can be really confusing, like the ball icon (probably the most confuse to me, it looks like a help option) and the ball sensitivity (from a developer view looks pretty obvious, but when I ask some people what they think, the most common answer I got was that it changes the landscape/ perspective setting). To be fair, all options have an information screen to guide the player, sadly, in my device, those information menus are REALLY small. The font size is small to read and the buttons are hard to hit. A good solution for the option menu, is to add a text on the side of the icons, since there’s a lot of available space on the screen for that. For the information menus, increase the font size and the button. Again, there’s a lot of free space in the screen.

Final Toughs

All gamedevs know that making a game is harder than it seems. Many game reviews made by players can be really cruel, and sometimes they have reasons to be like that. On other side, gamedevs’ reviews are, in general, supportive, but sometimes way too soft. A good review must inform the developer about what is bad and what can be fixed, and why it must be fixed. Sometimes is a critical bug and sometimes is a design choice. The gameplay of Roll a Ball is well made, except by some little choices. Thinking about gamedev’s life problems when he was creating this game makes me wonder what he can create in a stable and safe place. I hope Jeffrey Winn continues to make games, keeps improving and become even more ambitious. I hope he has less problems in his life so that he can be more focused on creating games rather than having to fight for his life.


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Guilherme Costa

Brazilian indie dev and writer.

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