Rovio Bounce Boing.Voyage v1.00 N-GAGE SymbianOS9.1.Cra??ed-BiNPDA
Bounce: Boing Voyage is a 3D sequel to the original Bounce games which many of you may remember from some of Nokia's older phones. The original game involved guiding a red ball through various levels, and the new version follows the same basic idea.
Since Nokia first announced it was going to become involved in the gaming industry, many people asked what their mascot would be. Sega has Sonic, Nintendo has Mario, what is Nokia's? Well, this is it, Bounce is as close as you're ever going to get to an old-style mascot for Nokia. The character has more personality than the faceless Snake, and already has a lot of iconic value thanks to its earlier appearances in 2D on some very big-selling phone models.
You start the game as a red rubber ball in a cartoon forest, where an evil floating cube is hypnotising the creatures of the forest to cut down all the trees (this is rather a psychedelic game on many levels). As you pursue the cube you journey through three zones, each with four levels. The levels themselves are subdivided into linked sections which you progress through linearly, and each section contains some kind of puzzle or challenge which may require dexterity, clever thinking, or both. As you clear a level the next level is unlocked, and these are all accessible from the game world map so you can go back to them if you like. Levels take a while to load, perhaps 10 or 15 seconds on average, but once you're in a level the different sections load instantly so the overall loading time is very low.
The easy way to complete a level is to just go through it ignoring all the bonuses, but if you want to score maximum points you have to collect all the glowing spheres, and this can be very tricky as some of them are hidden or in awkward-to-reach places.
As you progress through the game you will be able to turn into two other kinds of ball, and all three types have their own abilities. Many later puzzles require you to use all of these abilities, and it may become easier to collect spheres on earlier levels if you go back to them after gaining a new kind of ball. The pace of the game varies tremendously, with some sections moving at very high speeds while others force you to stop and think.
It's very very easy to learn how to play Bounce as each gameplay element is introduced one at a time, with the first levels effectively acting as a tutorial.
There are also three separate Arena levels, but more about those in the Arena part of this review.
Bounce Boing Voyage feels like a combination of Mario 64, Sonic The Hedgehog and Super Monkey Ball, and is very console-like. This could easily be a Nintendo DS game for example.
Graphics & Sound
The game looks wonderful, it has nice bright colours and well-designed scenery, with a fast and smooth 3D engine that never slows down even when the ball is moving at high speed. There's a good variety of scenery and objects, and even relatively small sections can seem large thanks to the careful level design.
There are numerous cut scenes, most which use the game's own 3D graphic engine so they blend in with the gameplay perfectly. Many of the images the game uses are unusual and memorable, with a combination of cute animals and surreal psychedelia. There are also a few cut scenes which use 2D artwork that have an ink-heavy comic style.
The sound is great, there's a lovely soundtrack that starts out jolly and gets darker towards the end of the game. The music complements the graphics wonderfully. The sound effects are good too, with a variety of noises for the different ball types and some amusing things thrown in here and there (such as the clucking that the giant cube birds make when you step on them).
Two of the three Arena-oriented levels, the left involves cannons while the right involves high speed
There are three Arena-based levels which you can unlock by collecting enough spheres from the main levels. They appear in the centre of the game map so you can go to them at any time.
The Arena levels have no real end points and you can't die, they're simply contests to score as highly as possible within a time limit. You score automatically by just being in the level but to get a good score you should collect coins (which add points at a faster rate) and rings (which extend the time limit). Each level has a completely different design, requiring different kinds of skills to do well in it, and people who do well on one Arena level may not do so well on another.
Scores are uploaded to an online league table so people can compare their rankings.
TV & Keyboard Test
Some N-Gage-compatible phones (e.g. Nokia N82, N95, N95 8GB, N96) have a TV Out feature which lets you connect the phone to a television set. This can be used for playing N-Gage games, or for any other phone function.
All N-Gage phones are compatible with Bluetooth keyboards that use the HID Bluetooth standard, and such a keyboard can be used to control games or any other phone function.
Bounce is perfectly playable through TV Out, it's very much like playing an old console game. The colours are lovely and bright though the 3D textures look pixelly. The music is nice to hear through the television's speakers.
Our Bluetooth keyboard worked absolutely brilliantly with the game, showing an instant response to every key press. Note that you have to redefine the "jump" and "change shape" keys from the settings menu when in horizontal mode, because these functions are mapped to the phone's gaming keys by default. Redefining them to 1 and 2 seemed to work well.
Bounce: Boing Voyage has lovely graphics, a gorgeous soundtrack, fun gameplay, a very welcoming learning curve, and above all bags and bags of charm. If you complete the game and pay close attention to the end credits, you'll see an example of how the developers have gone beyond the call of duty with this project.
It's a very "player-friendly" game, it never traps you in an unfair situation, and if you do die you always feel that you deserved it. If the worst happens, it puts you in the nearest safe place to where you died so you don't have to repeat anything you've already done. Bounce maximises fun and minimises drudgery, which is ideal for a phone game.
Some hardcore gamers may say Bounce is too easy and too short, but they're wrong. Firstly, simply going through the levels is much easier than completing them at 100%, and completing the game the easiest way only earns you about 200 pickup points out of 1000. Secondly, there are the Arena levels to keep the gameplay going even when you've fully completed the story mode at 100%. Thirdly... This game costs 7 euros. That's about one sixth of the price of one Nintendo DS game. The amount of gameplay you're getting for your money is huge, and it's definitely the best 7 euros this reviewer has ever spent on a brand new game.
It's not perfect: the gameplay isn't as original as Reset Generation or Mile High Pinball, it might have been nice to have more hidden areas and different routes through levels (perhaps based on ball type) to increase replay value, more difficult puzzles in the later levels would have made them much more satisfying, and of course more levels in general would be very welcome. Some kind of multiplayer mode, either online or Bluetooth-based, would have been the icing on the cake.
However, for 7 euros Bounce is excellent value for money. It's a carefully-crafted very playable 3D platformer which has managed to find its own style without being too derivative, and it successfully reinvents a forgotten game series. Hopefully we'll see more Bounce games (and more games in general) from the developer Rovio as this is a brilliant debut for them on N-Gage. They clearly know what they're doing.
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