Game for Windows Phone: Boonce review

You know those fake YouTube videos where people lob ping pong balls into cups over improbable distances and bounced off impossible-to-calculate angles? Boonce tasks you with doing within a minimalistic game world. It’s as satisfying and challenging as it sounds in this quirky little gem of a Windows Phone game.

Learning how to throw a ball is as much a complex mathematical task as it is a physical one. What combination of angle and speed do you need to throw the ball at in order for it to reach its destination? How much do you need to adjust for the weight and shape of the ball? How about wind strength?

Of course, no one actually thinks of these things when they go for a spot of catch in their local park. It’s this combination of complex and challenging judgement and stripped-back purity that Boonce seeks to emulate – with quite some success.

You take control of a ball-firing cannon placed at various points in a series of simple maze-like levels. Also dotted throughout these levels are a number of targets that need to be hit. Naturally you need to take all of these out with your cannon, but it’s not quite as straightforward as that.

First up you have to take into consideration simple ball physics. These balls don’t just fly straight and true like you’re in outer space. Rather they arc realistically as gravity takes a hold. This means you have to adjust the angle and power of your shot by dragging your finger on the screen. Touch the screen and the cannon will aim in the complete opposite direction. Now drag closer and further away from the cannon to set the power and release to shoot.

You’ll need to get to grips with feel of Boonce’s physics pretty sharpish, as it’s the key to progression. There’s no aiming reticule to help you out here, so everything is done by judgement.

This is made tougher not simply by some challenging level design, but by the introduction of special targets. Some of these have to be hit directly – hit them with a bank shot and you’ll fail the level. Other targets are quite the opposite, requiring you to bounce the ball of at least one surface prior to hitting them.

At its trickiest, Boonce presents you with a screen full of these targets – possibly moving and close enough to each other to require real precision. As you might expect, you’ll fail a lot, but this is one of those games where repeat play is the key to both victory and its charm. With this in mind, it’s a shame there’s no instant restart button on the screen – having to hit the Back key and select restart feels a little too awkward when you’re doing it so much.

Still, that’s a minor blemish. Boonce is built with admirable restraint and judgement (including its stripped-back hand-drawn art style and soothing music), and it refuses to hold your hand or mollycoddle you. The one welcome concession to your sanity is the ability to choose from any of the card-theme levels, so you don’t have to stay stuck on any one infuriating level if you don’t want to.

With over 100 finely crafted levels of ball-bouncing action, and more promised, Boonce puts many Xbox Live titles to shame and is well worth its £1.49 price tag on the Windows Phone Marketplace.


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