Ambi-ON Review

Making a name for yourself in this industry certainly isn't an easy task to undertake. This is especially true when all you have is a two-person team and a need to make games, to make the things that so many of us take for granted. Such is the case with Winning Blimp's Ambi-ON, a seemingly average  brick breaker with an 'epic scifi edge'. A debut title from the minds of Alex May and Bear Trickey (seriously, best name ever), Ambi-ON won't exactly be winning any awards. But its gameplay and soundtrack make Winning Blimp a rising star in the iOS gaming community.

Ambi-ON's promise is simple. It's Brick Breaker, in space, and it's vertical. Instead of a single screen to bounce around a ball in, the level scrolls vertically and you have to guide the Destructor Orb from left to right using two panels as your shield against oblivion. Simple, right?

What separates Ambi-ON from similar titles is its distinct arcade game feel. Winning Blimp's iOS game is a blast from the past is the same vein as Space InvadersGalaga, and even TetrisAmbi-ON deftly takes cues from its forebears, such as procedurally generated levels and replayability, and applies them with modern panache. Why only have one boundary to bounce the ball back when you can have two? You'll be wondering how we've never had a brick breaker be vertical or with two edges. And yet, here it is.  It just works so much better than playing through static levels. I sometimes enjoy a spectacle in a game; and Ambi-ON is certainly spectacular.

Being that this is a title with arcade-like mechanics you're going to be repeating levels, ad nauseam. As a result, the soundtrack has to be pretty top-notch and suitable for such a scenario where you'd essentially be playing the track on an endless loop. Ambi-ON features one song, but Winning Blimp has honest to God put its metal hearts and black souls into the vibe of it. It's hard rock, make no doubt, and kind of sounds like something out of Dynasty Warriors. Being a metal-head myself, I dig it, but I can easily see why some might choose to play it with the music off. But don't worry; this isn't Cannibal Corpse levels of metal intensity I'm talking about here, just some rather infectious shredding. In addition to the OST, I really enjoyed the rest of the sound design Winning Blimp incorporated. Things make bouncy noises when they should, or noises in general to cue you into the gameplay. If there's one suggestion I could make, the Destruction Orb ought to make a noise when it bounces off the platform(s). But this is a minor gripe if that.

For an iPhone game, Winning Blimp has got the UI done right. In that it doesn't exist. Sure, there's the token 'Current Score' text, but otherwise nothing obstructs you from seeing the playing field. Which is good, because you'll need your visual acuity to be sharp to do well. Not even your thumbs will get in the way, because they astutely cordoned off a UI section where you manipulate the panels with by sliding your thumb up and down. If you drag your finger down, the panel drags down correspondingly. If you tap down relative to the panel position, it'll go match the location of the tap. The way the game is described, and how the UI background appears, make it seem like all you would be able to do is drag. Tapping allows greater flexibility, but I would be lying if I didn't say I crashed and burned many a time by accidentally tapping when I meant to drag.

Unfortunately not everything about this game is daisies and daffodils. There are some shortcomings, while not critical to the enjoyment of the game, but definitely work against it. This game, if anything else, is difficult. You'll lose…often. Like I said, it's an 80s style game; expect to die. Fortunately however, some of the difficulty can be mitigated.

The control are precise, almost too precise. It does what I input with exacting efficiency, it just doesn't always translate to what I meant to do. Allow me to elaborate  Game developers should try, if at all possible, to enable the gamer to control how they intended – which on face vale sounds completely absurd. Take Shigero Miyamoto and the minds behind Ocarina of Time, for example. These guys understood that having Link jump automatically from the edge of a cliff or platform what exactly the player intended to do. Winning Blimp, while nailing precision controls on such a tiny screen should try to differentiate between correct and errant taps (e.g., if I accidentally tap on the bottom in my gusto to move my panel towards the top; I obviously wasn't planning on having my panel go to the bottom to reach the bouncing orb). It's a hard line to straddle, and I don't blame them for going for precision first.

This imprecision/precision conundrum leads to the enemies, if you can even call the entities in game as 'enemies', having far too much power. They grab your orb in their mouths (erotic!) and shoot them in a random direction. Sometimes that direction leads to an ungodly ricochet and you have no hope of rebounding. Oh well, game over. Try again! If the controls could be improved just that much more, then making runs for these rebounds could be a lot more fun than frustrating.But fortunately, Winning Blimp has planned to improved on this fun iOS title.

Winning Blimp is assuredly looking out for its community as the spry developer has updates coming down the pipeline. I'm assured that some of the Item Shop prices will be lowered in order to level the difficulty. I haven't spoken much about the Item Shop or the monetization of this game, so I'll dive in headfirst now. The game is indeed free to play as advertised, as in, "ye gods, freemium!" I'm a fan of F2P done right, and this game does it right. Ambi-ON gives you plenty of things to buy, and the game does not require you to spend in order to advance. Spending money just makes the experience easier for you to play.

With Ambi-ON, Winning Blimp's debut on the gaming scene s one iOS gamers won't soon forget. At no charge to you, you can go pick it up right now without dropping any shekels. It should be noted though that you might want open up your wallet just a touch. Not only to support this fledgling developer (who's next game is already in development) but to have even more fun with an already enjoyable title. All in all, Ambi-ON is a solid entry to the compendium of iPhone titles that should not be overlooked.

Fun Factor: If you like brick breaker and arcade games, this is right up your alley.  It's a quick fun romp through game styles of yore.

Difficulty: Hard? Try, double hard!  It's like playing two games of Brick Breaker at once, with both hands tied behind your back. Enjoy!

Length: I'll just leave this right here –

On the Negative Side: The controls are extremely precise.  You have no one to blame but yourself when you go all explode-y. And 75% of the time, you'll 'asplode every time.

Bang for Your Buck: It's free to play, so tons of bang? Or maybe this is a dividing by zero error? Just do yourself a favor and download this game, you lazy git.

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Critic Score: 8.0

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