by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Inspired by a Classic
Ionball 2: Ionstorm is a game inspired by the arcade classic Breakout, where one moves a paddle back and forth across a screen in order to hit a ball that will knock off various targets. What were once bricks and blocks in Breakout are now robots in Ionball 2, yet the difference matters not as the fundamental gameplay remains the same. The question then is whether or not Ionball 2 is just another clone of an old arcade game, or if it has enough changes and tweaks to make it something new and exciting. Thankfully, Ionball 2 adds an entertaining spin to the classic Breakout formula and doesn’t get caught up in revamping what already works.
Ionball 2 takes the classic arcade formula of brick-breaking and transfers it to a far-flung science fiction future aboard a space station. Robots have taken over a station and it's your job to bounce a powered ball back and forth across each level in order to destroy them. There’s no story to speak of, which is a blessing in a game like this. Could you imagine the storyline reasons behind why you use a ball and paddle to pacify rogue robots? There’s a time and a place for a plot, and there’s a time and a place for fast paced brick-breaking action.
Speaking of brick-breaking, the first thing I noticed in Ionball 2 compared to similar arcade games is that the ball moves at a blindingly fast pace. I happened to sneak glances as to what the robots I was blowing up looked like, only to find the ball shoot past my paddle before I knew what was happening. If you so much as take your eyes off the ball for a second, it's highly likely that the ball will be lost and your life count will go down by one. Older brick-breaking games routinely used a ball that started off slow before slowly picking up the pace as time went on, while Ionball 2 uses a ball that starts fast and continues to rocket faster from there. It's a great way to differentiate itself from its predecessors, and it's one of the better changes made in improving the overall flow of the game.
Another change for the better is the introduction of upgrades. As you destroy robots in each level you gain experience points which can be spent on several different upgrades to make the game a little bit easier. They range from simple upgrades that increase the size of your paddle and adding a magnet that helps collect drops from enemies, to active upgrades such as a laser weapon to help destroy robots or an EMP which slows down robots allowing you to hit them easier. There's not a whole lot of variety or uniqueness in the upgrades, but they do allow for some variety when you play.
Eardrum busting Dubstep
Aesthetically, Ionball 2 is average in nearly all aspects. While the sci-fi setting is a welcome change of pace, it never really stands out and feels very traditional in regards to the designs of the spaceship and robots. In particular, the design of the robots feels like it has been lifted from countless other science fiction properties over the past decade. It's serviceable, but not special.
What is one of the most surprising inclusions in Ionball 2 is the dubstep fuelled soundtrack. Now, dubstep does provide a great pace for which the game can be played at, but it almost feels more appropriate if the game had a more subdued techno soundtrack instead. While my ears did explode for a short period of time (I should not have worn headphones and maxed out the volume), the music eventually mixed into the gameplay where it was much more tolerable. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the soundtrack, but it serves its purpose within the game.
Good Classic Fun
Ionball 2: Ionstorm contains about 60 levels to bust your way through, with leaderboards for the more competitive minded folks. Beyond that, there's not much else to do once you've completed the game, which is a shame as it could have added more content or experimented with new gameplay modes. It may not have the most original sci-fi design, nor does it do much to reinvent the classic Breakout formula that has survived over the decades, but it is enjoyable. If you like classic arcade games or just want to break some blocks with a cool soundtrack, Ionball 2 is the game you're looking for.
Fast paced gameplay, Fun additions to old formula, Dubstep.
Generic sci-fi backdrop, Lack of variety in gameplay modes.