Jumping around intermittently and moving to and fro is no child’s play, particularly not when you’re playing Red Ball 4. The game is set in various backgrounds that range from happy sunny days to dark dungeons, with missions to complete, while also at the same time killing nasty squares and collecting stars for
The plot is simple: the square-shaped box villains have taken over and are looking to transform the entire world into a square, earth very much included. And the red ball you control has, with its over-expressive eyes and the many goofy faces it makes, taken it upon itself to save the world. The game works on basic principles of physics such as momentum and angles, and other hacks that you’ll figure as you progress in the game. The controls are simple — left and right arrow heads on the bottom-left of the screen to take the ball back and forth, and a circular control on the bottom-right to jump. Spread across 60 stages, the story is divided into four chapters of 15 stages, each set against a different backdrop. Every subsequent stage offers a higher level of challenge; it’s not rocket-science but it will get you thinking. You have to defeat a boss square at the end of every 15th stage (the last of each chapter), who employs dirty tactics and all his minions to dissuade you from moving ahead. But with five lives (and more if you are desperate to continue and are ready to view strategically placed 15-second long commercials that give you five extra lives on every view) and perseverance, it’s not exactly a herculean task to save the world from getting boxed, quite literally. Once you have completed a set and are ready to take on the next chapter, you might still not get access because you haven’t been able to achieve enough “golden crowns”, which basically means that you did not collect all the stars or kill enough squares to ace a particular stage. In such a situation, you can always go back and re-attempt stages to improve your score, and eventually enter the next chapter.
The graphics have been designed to keep you hooked, especially the change in the ball’s expression, as it shifts from a steady smile to a hearty grin whenever it hits a checkpoint, or the worried expression it adopts at the sight of danger. There’s also plenty of disappointment if you miss the compulsory step necessary to cross particular obstacles, meaning you’ll have to sacrifice a life so you can come back with a better plan. The ball can’t do double-jumps to cross huge gaps, so it needs to roll over a distance to gather the kind of speed required to make a long jump, or employ the assistance of other objects and some mid-air manoeuvring to get past.
From laser beams that can electrocute the ball to saw wheels that can mutilate the ball (don’t worry, there is no bloodshed; when the ball dies, it flies off with angel wings), there are enough objects that demand your complete attention. If you do get hooked, it shouldn’t take longer than a week to finish the game, so it’s a great way to beat boredom and also develop some basic gaming skills.