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The Slacker's Guide - When Weird Meets Clever: N-Ball 2.0

by Chris Barylick
March 10th, 2006

With full realization of the consequences (namely the fact that it makes me sound like an arcane geezer groping for his cane and wondering when brunch will be served), I have to say this: two-dimensional side scroller games will never die. Yes, this hearkens back to a time when many of you weren't yet alive, but add an original element to this proven formula and things become interesting.

In the case of Rag Doll Software's N-Ball 2.0 for the Mac, this is especially true. Following a classic side-scroller/platform jumper formula, N-Ball 2.0 combines an ultra-realistic physics engine with an imaginative platform environment to make for one of the strangest, but most playable, games available in current Mac shareware.

As the game opens, the player begins by controlling a ball that must be guided through a level. With nothing but the ability to control the direction you're rolling in and the ability to jump as long as you're in contact with a surface, you must navigate the ball to the end of each map to reach the next stage.


Bouncing along in Rag Doll's N-Ball 2.0.

And that's it. There are no power ups, flight capsules or nuclear bazookas to fall back on. Just a remarkably realistic physics engine that captures elements of movement such as inertia, gravity and everything else that needs to be fought against as the player attempts to maintain control of the ball. Add in objects such as rubber bands, bouncing humanoid objects, floating spheres, windmills and giant wheels that must be correctly bounced off of to maneuver around them and the game becomes that much more fun.

The player fights for some element of control (which becomes more difficult when they have no idea what their ball is heading towards), all with a driving techno-funk backbeat and beautiful neon-derived colors as the game's visual scheme. Not typical for a shareware title and not completely original (some might argue that the "Sonic the Hedgehog" series did/does this kind of gameplay better), but still a fun way to kill 10 minutes, N-Ball 2.0 achieves its goal and makes clever use of the physics engine Rag Doll Software developed for its Rag Doll Masters fighting game.

N-Ball 2.0 ships with several game modes, extensive options, four quests and 40 levels, three of those quests and 30 levels needing to be unlocked via gameplay and registration. The company asks US$9.95 for the serial number to the game. N-Ball 2.0 requires Mac OS X 10.1 or higher to run, is a 4.3 megabyte download and occupies 6.5 megabytes of hard disk space once installed. Some of Matteo Guarnieri's best work, be sure to check out the Web site and see what you make of it.That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you've seen anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe, please let me know

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

.

Also, stay tuned to forthcoming issues of this column, wherein we'll be holding a few contests and giveaways (typically a free game, utility or other cool toy).

You may not win the pony and a red wagon on the first try, but you can't win if you don't play.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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