By Jon Evans
Forgotten Ball is a cross between the tippy wooden game, Labyrinth, 3D Chess and a crazy nightmare from M. C. Escher. The brainchild of debut developer, Joshua Croft, it is three years in the making from an early undergraduate project to part funded Kickstarter and now also a mobile game. Forgotten Ball is bewitching in its complexity, but also a breath of fresh air in its simplicity.
You control a bouncing ball with very simple controls, left, right and jump, and have to navigate upwards through a devilish twisting maze of corners, jumps and platforms to your ultimate goal, the top. Accompanied by a haunting ambient soundtrack Forgotten Ball is the Dark Souls of platforming, hard as nuts, both fun and challenging at the same time.
On your way up you have dangers on your way. Anything coloured red, be they sections of your pathway, or moving blocks, rhythmically sliding towards you, are anathema, and will reduce you to crumbling bits should you touch them. Orange blocks transport you upwards like lifts and on your way are enigmatic buttons which perform various mysterious actions to aid your progress.
The allure of the Forgotten Ball is the depth of gameplay in the microcosm. You play, in essence, one single level, working your way upwards, however each strip, corner and sections are sub-levels in themselves, with the challenge of precise movement and split-second timing keeping you moving upwards too rapidly. There's a fine balance that maintains the pace of the game well, without you feeling too disheartened by your failures. There are green checkpoints peppered on your way up, which are life-savers but also act as a target for you to reach, especially as they appear in your peripheral vision as the tangled helix of striata rise above you.
I've played both versions on the game, desktop and mobile and it is, admittedly, easier to play on desktop with a controller, however the iOS version has very tight controls and looks beautiful on the screen of iPhone 6S+, running smooth as butter. There is also the joy of being able to pull out and play the game on the move, especially as you can dip in and play from one checkpoint to the next without losing your progress. Joshua has designed the game to be playable on the 5S upwards, but has recently pulled it from the Google Play store as several Sherlockers hacked and cloned his first build as soon as it was available.
He was initially upset about this, but remains upbeat about what happened and has continued to refine and polish the desktop version. You can download a demo on IndieDB right now while you wait for the full version which will be released later this year. The iOS version of Forgotten Ball is available on the App store now.