Sometimes the simplest of concepts are the best. Some of the best games out there - the enduring efforts that have been around for decades - are based on the kind of construct that any Tom, Dick or Harry can comprehend. Shifting shapes around, collecting coins and matching up coloured gems are all gaming staples, but it takes a game of equal simplicity but one lacking the same kind of pull to highlight just what bastions of genius those aforementioned classics are.
Sadly, Balls 'n' Walls is the kind of simple game that has no draw; you can be playing it within seconds, but there's very little reward for doing so. It is, in short, quite plain. Perhaps that's the risk all such simplistic titles take, but Balls 'n' Walls trundles over the cliff of austerity and lands slap bang in mediocrity town centre.
The basics of play would be quite difficult for the developer to stuff up. Your aim is to keep the ball, or indeed balls, dashing around the screen within the large square in the centre. Doing so is a matter of following the ball's path and 'magnetising' each side of the square as the ball hits it - in other words, holding down the key that relates to the side of the square that the ball is headed for. In return, the ball then bounces off the wall (registering a point on the scoreboard in the process), and heads off towards another.
If you fail to secure the right wall in time and the ball leaves the square, then that's a life lost. It all sounds rather easy until other elements start to tip the balance against you. For instance, most of the time there'll be more than one ball in play and, with only one wall able to be magnetised at once, it becomes a question of judging just which ball is going to hit which wall first and holding down the right buttons for the right length of time in the right order. The length of time you activate a wall also plays its part, changing its shape and, therefore, the direction the ball flies off in once it has hit it.
In essence, the action required on your part is minimal. As you might expect, the walls of the square correspond to the positioning of the '2', '4', '6', and '8' keys on your keypad, so the actual mental process of knowing how to keep the balls in play is far from tricky. There are some bugs that rear their ugly head and complicate matters, however. Somewhat frustratingly, there's often a lag that hits play, meaning you can have your finger pressed down on one wall, only for the previous wall you activated to still be lit up.
Quite bizarrely, this is a fault that actually gets more prevalent on the easier settings. Balls 'n' Walls gives you the option to change the speed of play, with the idea being that slower-moving balls will be easier to deal with. However, rather than simply slowing down the motion of the balls, it's almost as if the entire game is put on slow motion, meaning your actions are also put on a slight delay. Frustrating to say the least.
It's no small issue, either. As play progresses, Balls 'n' Walls adds further elements that disrupt proceedings, meaning it's all the more important that the game is as responsive as can be; whirlwinds whisk into town, whip up the balls and spit them out at twice the pace. There are bonuses aplenty too, adding a life or letting you control all the walls for a period of time, amongst others. These are also activated by touching a magnetised wall, but in truth neither the bonuses nor hazards suitably lift Balls 'n' Walls above its run-of-the-mill station.
It's simple, but it's not especially effective - even with plenty of additional modes that put a twist on play here and there, and in an arena where similar fast-tap puzzlers are coming into their own, Balls 'n' Walls is a tame and slightly dated effort that has already been superseded several times by leagues of rivals.