Ragdoll Blaster is totally and utterly spineless. That's not an attempt to launch this review with an incredibly dramatic slur, but rather a simple fact: ragdolls are fluffy, boneless beings and Backflip Studio's brilliant puzzler is all about launching them into the sky, watching them crash into an array of toy box furniture.
It's beautiful stuff. As are the game's sketchbook style visuals, perfectly illustrating the experimental, almost childlike nature of the game. This is the fruitful rather than frustrating side of trial-and-error gameplay, firing scores of ragdolls out of a cannon at every angle and force imaginable towards a big red target proving to be fun defined.
That red target is usually craftily hidden behind a range of obstacles, sometimes in motion, sometimes stationary, but your goal is always to get one of your ragdolls to meet it.
You fire said dolls out of a cannon that moves around from level to level. The actual mechanism of shooting him is fairly simple with a mere touch of the screen causing the doll to fire off towards your marker.
The further out from the cannon you aim, the more force behind the shot. Early levels are designed to test just how quickly you learn the game's physics, the target placed at varying lengths and heights from lift-off. It doesn't matter whether it takes you five or 500 dolls, if you hit the target you complete the map and move on to the next.
Once you've got the basic physics pinned, new elements are thrown into the mix: switches that have to be knocked either by balls snooker style or directly by a ragdoll itself, springs that bounce your dolls towards their goal should they hit them at the right angle, mazes to be navigated and a target that begins to move around or even disappear off the screen.
It all leads to an explosion of creativity, where you have to think out of the box more and more to get that ragdoll from one side of the screen to the other, however impossible it may initially seem.
Doing so is a combination of timing, careful planning, and almost always a bit of luck. Like a goal that takes a million random deflections before it eventually hits the back of the net, on many occasions you see your doll hit its goal with the tightest of margins, a collection of bizarre collisions seeing it spin to glory in a way you hadn't anticipated. But rather than reducing Ragdoll Blaster to fate and fortune, it just encourages you to experiment even more.
You find yourself purposefully trying to make it more difficult on some maps, experimenting with new unique ways to hit the target rather than going for the most obvious route.
It turns every level into a playground, where you're free to try what you will without any points deductions or judgments of any kind. All Ragdoll Blaster does is keep a record of your best attempt (naturally, the one that took the fewest far flung ragdolls), making this a personal challenge rather than one designed for global scoreboards.
It's this sense of personal exploration that gives it a feel of The Incredible Machine or Lemmings. It's easy to get lost in your own little world, seeing just how many switches you can flip and springs you can bounce off along the way to your goal.
Expertly designed, sublimely presented and with cause for replay after replay, Ragdoll Blaster is the king of experimentation that ends with a brilliant bang.