Bounce Out Ball-o-Rama

It's amazing what a lick of paint can do. As anyone who is unfortunate enough to have sampled the reams of idiotic 'here's how you should live your life' shows that dominate daytime television will know, putting up garish wallpaper on a 'feature wall', painting over any cracks and chucking a few scatter cushions around the place can turn a rotting shack into a boutique hotel.

Simply changing the sheets once a month can add a couple of grand to the value of your house, apparently.

The original Bounce Out was no rotting shack, it has to be said, but RealNetworks has applied the same theory to its follow-up. To all intents and purposes, this sequel is pretty much the same game as last year's outing. It just looks a bit different, and it has an odd name.

It's almost as if people pay attention to us lads and lasses over here at Pocket Gamer. Our original review noted that, despite being a jolly good puzzler on the whole, Bounce Out was a bit plain and lacking in character. RealNetworks's response has been to chuck a bucketload of personality at the package, serving up what can only be described as a veritable themepark of charm.

The question is, is it all a bit too shallow? Does a lick of paint really make that much difference?

First things first. Those who have played Bounce Out - either on the mobile or online - will know it plays like the very definition of a match-three puzzler. In any of the play modes (and there are numerous on offer), your role is to match up three or more marbles in either vertical or diagonal lines by swapping them around in order to clear them from the board.

It's a simple enough premise and one that's far easier to comprehend than it is to master, especially when trying to turn your hand to the varieties on offer. As with the original, Bounce Out Ball-o-Rama brilliantly spins the rules with each game mode to give the whole shebang a stack of longevity.

The only difference is, instead of running under the titles Strategy, Classic and Swapper, RedLynx has dropped these same modes of play into arcade cabinets, each one painted with a different theme.

So, anyone who wants a game of classic Bounce Out, where every swap you make has to result in a match-up there and then, will have to have a bash at Road Trip instead, where the same gameplay comes wrapped up like a trek across the stars and stripes. It makes little difference to actual play, though said lick of paint does make each mode fairly distinctive.

Space Ranger is probably the most accessible of these newly branded modes, where clearing a set amount of balls within a time limit is the challenge, but all of the other varieties come with their own appeal (even if their rules are slightly more complex).

Blue Sea Divers, for instance, involves keeping the balls below a red line that drops further down the screen with each passing level, adding a new sense of pressure to proceedings - a feeling only exaggerated by Jungle Adventure, where the red line remains but every move you make drops yet more balls into the bundle.

It's Sky Dancers that represents the biggest challenge, however, charging you with reaching what can initially appear to be an astronomical score target within a time limit.

This is the most straightforward of all the flavours on offer, but also the most testing - if you don't have an eye for the multiple pair-ups and the skill to clear lines of four to trigger the bonus balls (multiplying the score, clearing whole lines, blowing up reams of balls or 'wildcard' balls that can act as any colour you choose), then taking flight in this final mode will turn into a completely different kind of dogfight.

There is a question, however, of whether this is merely style over substance, or at least that the only progression from one bounce to the next has been made in terms of presentation. Bounce Out is as addictive as ever, but this is essentially the same game as before - it just looks a little nicer.

If the blandness of the original put you off parting with your cash, then Bounce Out Ball-o-Rama has certainly addressed that issue, but those making a return trip shouldn't expect RealNetworks's second crack of the whip to be much more than the same old puzzler with a fresh new look.

Bounce Out Ball-o-Rama

Less a sequel and more a bit of a refresh, Bounce Out Ball-o-Rama is a simple yet addictive match-three puzzler, using the same gameplay as the original but dressing it in brighter, bolder clothes
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.