Independent Kinect developer Virtual Air Guitar Company has released Boom Ball 3 For Kinect. This is the third entry in its explosive block-busting franchise. It’s available to download on Xbox Live for Xbox One via the ID@Xbox self-publishing programme priced at £7.99 (UK) / €9.99 (EU) / $9.99 (US).

Boom Ball 3 For Kinect First Impressions

My original Xbox One kept turning itself off so I had to buy a Kinect Adapter for Xbox One X. I ended up having to pay a lot for it from eBay as Microsoft have been sold out for months. Unfortunately I have only just received the adapter so I haven’t had the chance to play Boom Ball 3 as much as I would have liked before writing this article and I’m currently away for Christmas without the Xbox so can’t play it again until I get back. In order to get this article done as quickly as possible the following first impressions are going to include many parts copy & pasted from Boom Ball 1 & 2’s first impression articles for convenience as the games are very similar. But I will of course talk about the differences or anything I previously forgot to mention. I’ll highlight Boom Ball 3-specific information in yellow so that owners of previous games can easily skip to it.

Boom Ball 3 For Kinect is a first-person 3D cross between block breaking videogames, such as Breakout, and the racquet game squash. Similar to the Rally Ball minigame in Kinect Adventures for Kinect for Xbox 360 but with more to do. Boom Ball 3 also includes the 2-player co-op that was introduced in the second game. Although unfortunately I can’t give my impressions of that since I don’t really have the room for playing a game like this in multiplayer. Plus I don’t have anyone to play it with most of the time since it’s only local multiplayer.

From what I’ve played so far the graphics have been improved from the previous games. Most noticeably the environments, which are now more realistic and less cartoony. Don’t worry, the blocks are still their colourful cartoony selves though. I think the game would lose some of its charm if the developer had made the blocks photorealistic house bricks!

The music that I’ve heard so far sounds as good as always. It’s very well made. Although I think it too is slightly different in the sorts of styles played. What I’ve heard so far is upbeat lighthearted french-style accordion and acoustic guitar music. However, I haven’t played enough levels to judge it properly yet, but it seems to suit the game well.

Controls

You can only use hands to hit the balls and walk left and right (or lean left and right if sitting) to move left and right in-game, complete with the correct 3D perspective. I totally forgot to try Boom Ball 3 sitting down though, so I can’t say whether you can play it sitting down or how well it works if you can.

Some people have complained about the Boom Ball games only using hands to hit the balls and wanted to be able to use all body parts. However, after playing I think just hitting the ball with your hands in right for the game. The reason for this is that since it’s in first-person you wouldn’t be able to see your feet unless you did a high kick. Or at least a mid kick, since the view is very 1:1 with your body. (Or at least if you have the top of your TV at around eye level like me.) So it’s a lot like looking through an open window rather than having a view that could fit your lower body too. Unlike Rally Ball in Kinect Adventures which has a close 3rd person view with transparent characters. I suppose they could have added the ability to head the balls. But being able to hit them with your torso probably would have made the game too easy.

The bats in Boom Ball 3 are slightly different to the first one and just like the second. They become tear-shaped, looking very similar to the head of a tennis or squash racquet, when you move them around. The end of the pointed part is where your wrists are and it’s as if your hands were racquet heads. So it gives you a better idea of how you’re hitting the ball compared to the first game. This caused me to play the game a lot more tennis-like and I was was performing more backhands and lobs for example. Although the lobs are a bit limited as the courts have quite low transparent ceilings. The bats move back and forth in 3D space a little bit, not just on a 2D plane. But it’s hard to judge how deep into the screen the bats are when you move them forward. I think there should have been a shadow on the ground for them like there is with the ball. As then you could tell how far forward they are. This doesn’t really affect the game too much though.

There is one thing different about the bats in Boom Ball 3 though. You can now take pictures with Kinect and decorate your bats with them. Or you can unlock different bats, which I’ll explain later.

The speed and force of your swings are tracked so you can whack the ball harder to make it go faster, and the angle you hit it is tracked too. Also, I can’t remember if this was the case with either of the previous games but the harder you hit the ball the more damage you can do to the blocks. Like for instance sometimes destroying more blocks in one hit. The speed of ball can be increased now too as there are three difficulty levels: Normal, Fast and Turbo. I’ll talk more about that later.

Like in Boom Ball 2, the balls no longer get green highlights when they’re within striking distance. So the timing is a little trickier to get used to at first and you may find yourself missing them a bit more. I would have liked for the ball to not only still get green highlights when they’re within striking distance but also for it to maybe get red highlights when it’s about to go out of play.

As always Virtual Air Guitar Company have produced a great low-latency experience with no noticeable lag and flawless controls. Asobo Studio, the developer of the disappointing Xbox One port of Disneyland Adventures, should take note! (Seriously, I hope they fix that.)

Balls

There are a few different balls I’ve come across so far. As well as the regular ball there are also Heavy Balls, which can instantly break blocks that normally take more than one hit to break and that you collect by hitting a dark coloured ball icon. Big Balls, which does more damage due to its size that you collect by hitting a big ball icon. Multiballs, which are multiple extra balls added in play when you hit multiball icons. The multiballs can get pretty hectic, especially on “Turbo”. Although you don’t lose a “life” ball unless all the balls get past you. As long as you have 1 in play you’re OK. The last balls I’ve come across are the Boom Balls. You get those at the end of each wave of blocks once you’ve broken enough blocks to fill your Boom Ball meter. The Boom Balls are explosive homing balls. Although you still have to him them in the general direction of the blocks you want to hit.

Blocks

There are all kinds of blocks in various colours that I’ve come across so far, both static and moving. Some are just regular blocks that can be broken in 1 hit. Some are stone blocks which require more hits. Then there are glowing red blocks which explode when you hit them and take out any blocks in a few block radius. There are blocks with question marks on them which drop power-up bonuses (Heavy Balls, Big Balls, Multiballs etc). There are also metal blocks that can’t be broken and just act as dividing walls. In the first Boom Ball there were also black bombs that shouldn’t be hit as you lose a ball if you do. I haven’t come across any black bombs yet, but I’ve only played a few levels so they might appear in later levels.

Levels & gameplay

Boom Ball 3 has 50 levels in total. It has gone back to the unlocking a trail on a map-style level progression from Boom Ball 1.  Also, there’s a nice little effect where the map has drawings that appear as you unlock the levels and they animate when you move the cursor over them. Each level is still a square court with “invisible force field” walls that flash when the balls bounce off them and have graphical themes that match the locations like countryside scenes and windmills.

At the start of each level you can now choose a difficulty level. “Normal” gives you 5 balls per level. It plays at quite a leisurely pace and awards you 1 bonus star each time you complete a level. “Fast” gives you 3 balls per level. It’s faster than “Normal” and awards you 2 bonus stars for each level you complete. “Turbo” also gives you 3 balls per level but is the fastest mode and awards you 3 stars for completing a level. The addition of difficulty levels that speed up the ball is very welcome and gives core gamers a better challenge. Any core gamers who maybe thought the Boom Ball games were a bit too casual for them should give Boom Ball 3 a try on “Turbo”. I think they’ll like it and they’ll have a very hard time trying to complete levels without losing at least 1 ball!

You start each level with 5 or 3 balls depending on the difficulty (1 at a time, not counting when you hit multiball icons) and you lose a ball anytime you fail to hit it and it passes by your bats. You have a certain number of blocks to destroy to clear each level and two or more waves of blocks per level. As previously mentioned, there’s a Boom Ball meter at the top of the screen. This fills up as you destroy each block and you get one meter per wave. The way the blocks are arranged and often move about presents puzzle-like challenges to figure out how best to break all the blocks and how to do it quickly if you want to get gold medals, or even eventually how to break the blocks at all in later levels if it’s like the original game, which I’m sure it will be.

Each level has a clock and although I think you can take as long as you like to complete the levels you are given 2 time limits (different for each level) to beat to win medals which also win you stars. If you beat the 1st time limit you win a gold medal. If you go over that time limit but beat the 2nd time limit you win a silver medal. You also win a star if you manage to clear the level without losing a ball.

The stars you collect allow you to unlock new designs for your bats. For example there are bats with pictures of electric guitars, skull and crossbones and even bats with cats! Unfortunately these different bats appear to be purely cosmetic, they don’t seem to different attributes or special powers. Unless maybe later ones do, since I’ve only unlocked a few and there are loads to unlock. If those don’t though then maybe that’s something the developer could include if they make a Boom Ball 4?

I think that overall the improvements made to Boom Ball 3 make it a good step above the previous games. Plus, like the second game, no doubt the 2-player co-op makes it even better still. As a core gamer I played the game in a more challenging way by playing it on “Turbo” and only moving on to the next level once I had cleared the previous level with a gold medal time. When I get back to playing it again I’ll probably try to complete each level without losing any balls too. But it is really hard to do that on “Turbo” difficulty! I would recommend other core gamers to play like that, since if you played it more casually and didn’t care about the medals or losing balls then it would obviously be a lot easier and probably only take a couple of hours to complete. Especially since it appears to have unlimited continues like the previous games. But just like the previous games it’s a lot of fun and very addictive. So that plus the multiplayer gives it good replayability.

I’d say Boom Ball 2 For Kinect is definitely worth buying, especially since it’s only £7.99 (or 9.99 / $9.99). What I’ve played so far is even better than the previous games and worth a score of at least 7.5 and will probably end up being worth about 8 for single player as, again just like the previous games, it has been getting better and better with each level. With multiplayer factored in it could be worth possibly up to an 8.5!

 

Are you a Boom Ball fan and planning on buying Boom Ball 3 For Kinect? Have you bought it already? If so then let us know what you think in the comments below, or create a discussion in our Kinect 2 Games Forum. You can also post your own review in our Kinect 2 Game Reviews Forum.

 

Screenshots

(Click on pics to enlarge.)