The PS5 version of King Oddball isn’t much of an improvement over the PS4 version and is still more at home on phones and tablets. The Finger Guns Review.
One of those weird and wonderful aspects of console launches is seeing who attempts to ride the wave of the new hotness. Among the games designed for the new console, there’s always a few chancers that are there to grab a few sales while the number of games available on the burgeoning platform is still small. I’d certainly put King Oddball in the latter category. Originally released in 2012 on mobile phones, this game has made its way onto every modern console over the years and now, 8 years after its initial release, it has launched on the PS5. Does this pebble pelting 2D puzzle game rock our world?
The short answer – No. The Long answer – There’s some cheap, brainless fun to be had here but King Oddball has always been a better experience on mobile phones and that doesn’t change with the PS5 release.
If you’ve never had the peculiar pleasure of playing King Oddball, here’s the rundown: the titular monarch – little more than a floating boulder with a crown and a weird little face – has set his sights on destroying the world. Y’know, as you do. In order to do so, he’s going to swing boulders from his surprisingly long tongue and hurl them at any and all of the defences the Earth can put in his way.
Each of the 120+ levels in King Oddball has a collection of tanks, helicopters, troops and more that must be destroyed. The rocky royalty has 3 boulders that he swings back and forth automatically at the end of his tongue and releases with a tap of X in order to do so. The boulder will fly off along the trajectory and speed that the tongue indicates via its swing. Press X at the top of the tongue’s arc and the rock will fly higher but not very far. Hit it when the rock is near the bottom of the arc and it’ll fly off quickly and go some distance – but this type of shot is useless for higher targets. Good (or lucky) shots are rewarded. Hit 3 or more targets with a single throw and you’re awarded with another boulder to throw. If you happen to hit King Oddball with the boulder after he’s thrown it, he’ll collect it to reuse again.
King Oddball lives in the same space as Angry Birds. Each level is different with structures to navigate/destroy and enemies placed in spots which will need precision or perseverance to smack with a boulder. Much like many of its peers, each level has multiple methods of completion. You can often brute force a win but with a well placed boulder pitched at the perfect speed, you can clear an entire screen of foes with a single throw as it bounces from tank to helicopter to tank. There’s some clever games design on show here if you go looking for it. Clearing up a whole level by banking enemies into one another is a smart addition that’s not necessary for progress but feels pretty cool to pull off.
The structure of King Oddball means that you’ve usually got a few levels to go at at any one time. A large map is broken up into a grid and each one of those grid spaces contains 4 x 4 enemy squares. In order to move onto the next grid, every enemy square has to be cleared.
Despite that, there’s every chance you’ll still get stuck at at least one point in King Oddball as the further you progress, the more complex puzzles become and the more fiendish they can be. Shields, bumpers, structures that require very precise shots and more all get gradually introduced. If you’ve mastered the standard levels, there are a few novel challenges to be found including the grenade mode that has you toss explosives rather than rocks (why exactly King Oddball doesn’t do this all the time – surely that would make destroying Earth far easier?), a diamond mode that challenges you to complete the normal levels in 1 shot less than usual and a One Rock mode that reduces your pebbles to just a solitary shot.
Nothing in this game will be new to you if you’ve played any of the thousands of similar mobile games out there. It’ll feel like well trodden ground for you because…well … it is. There’s no update to the content that can be found in the PS4 or PSVita version of the game. Having revisited the PS4 version of the game recently to compare, the visuals – which have admittedly appealing backgrounds with a painterly feel – look identical on the PS5 too. There’s no novel use of the DualSense controller which has no haptic effect which I have to imagine would have been a slam dunk to just add a judder to the pad each time a rock hits something.
The core issue with King Oddball on PS5 – or any console really – is that there’s a mobile version which is free to play and it is by far in a way the best way to play this game. The touch screen feels much more intuitive to play on than with a controller and while it’s an admirable porting job that costs less than a pint in London, it’s hard to recommend this version when there’s a better one that’s totally gratis. If you bought King Oddball on PS4, you already have access to this in which case, it’s worth a half hour of your time. I can think of worse ways to spend that time but this is probably the least interesting use of the PlayStation 5’s extra horsepower so far.
Inexpensive and familiar physics puzzles with a quirky art style will grant any King Oddball player with a few short hours of mindless entertainment. The lack of any new content or utilisation of the DualSense controller means if you’ve already played this on the myriad platforms it’s already on, there’s no need to double dip. This one’s for those that have already completed all of the PS5 launch games and are scratching around for anything else to play.
King Oddball is available now on the PlayStation 5 (review platform), PS4, PSVita, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch, PC and mobile devices.
Developer: 10tons Ltd
Publisher: 10tons Ltd
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game for the PS4. We reviewed the free PS5 upgrade. For our full review policy, please go here.
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