Review: I'd like to make a joke about how much fun I like to have playing with balls, but then I think I might get fired.
See the ball, visualize the ball, BE the ball. That's pretty much the entire premise behind Cinemax's release Gumboy: Crazy Adventures for the PC. Unlike many other games, there's no story, no overwhelming melodramatic plotlines (unless you count dying a million times), and there doesn't need to be. The game, as they would say in cinema class, ?was made for the sake of being a game.'
Eerily similar to Sony's LocoRoco, the gameplay innovatively integrates the characteristics of playing with a real life ball, including real life physics, and rolls it into a green blob of fun. Gumboy can roll, bounce, jump, fly and float in over forty levels, with more available as a download from Cinemax's website.
Although Gumboy himself leaves the players wanting more, the level design in this game is simply awesome. Every light and shadow is reflected on Gumboy, showing just how much work the designers put into their level deign. Taking a page out of Salvador Dali's paintings, their fantasy-like setting takes the player across different worlds that seem to invoke surreal images. From the Goblin Forest to the Underground Cavern, players will be in awe of the beautiful artwork.
Audibly, Gumboy suffers from repetitive sound effects and lack of music (other than the bonus stages and the awesome opening sequence). Although the incredible ambient tracks in the stages more than make up for it. From the fiery pits of an underground cave to the quaint calmness of a fantastical forest, every level contains a large amount of sound to helps the player become engrossed into the world of Gumboy.
These dreamlike backgrounds provide the backdrop for Gumboy's ?Crazy Adventures' as he performs tasks for Goblins, Fairies, and more. While most (okay all) of the quests consist of either fetch-like missions where you have to bring something to the guardians or gather enough points to open up a gate, the game will have you both entertained and frustrated for hours as you try to squeeze a small nut into an incredibly cramped space. Although it's not required, players can rack up points through collecting stars in the game, in a style akin to that of the early Sonic games. To help Gumboy in his quest are powerups consisting of something to change the shape/consistency of your ball, a glue bag, a magnetic shield, and the almighty ?hiccup'. Eat your heart out Mega Man. Aside from having to actually navigate the stages, there are obstacles aplenty to get in your way. The one minute you think Gumboy is safe, the next you'll see him explode.
While most games of this genre typically consist of small five-minute stages, some of the stages in Gumboy are incredibly huge. Be prepared to spend up to ten-minutes plus just to complete some of the levels. In fact, one of the levels took me twenty minutes, not including previous attempts, to complete. Either that or I just plain suck.
As with most puzzle games, this game presents fun for the entire family. Which cannot be ignored in a simple game like this. Gumboy transcends any gender and age boundaries allowing everyone to become wrapped up in this game, especially with its simple controls. Surprisingly though, a lot of the puzzles require a deep amount of logic, meaning that a lot of the younger players may have difficulty clearing the later stages.
Given the game's nature, this is definitely one of those games you'll be wishing was available on console. While the game's control scheme is rather simple, it can become a hassle to move the ball with just your basic keyboard. More than once I found myself jamming hard on my keys to try and move Gumboy in the direction I wanted him to go, only to miss the same location over and over again. I highly recommend the use of a joystick for this game.
From collecting stars in a Sonic-like fashion to helping Mr. Bean find his lost children, players of all ages will become enthralled with its high level of gameplay, addictive nature, and high amount of replayability- especially if you love playing with balls.