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Notes on the review from

by Cardek on Mon May 09, 2011 7:45 pm

Yesterday, I received an email telling me there was a new review of my game. I was so glad to read that, until I realized the reviewer completely missed some aspects of the game. I could be quite happy that the game received a silver star and a general score of 76%. Moreover, the tone of Steve Blanch's review is globally very positive on every aspect he has tested. That's were the problem is...

The reviewer admit to have tested 11 levels out of 25, which corresponds to 44% of the game. He spent 3 hours to go there until he get stucked. As a side note on the longevity, just multiply that time to go to 100% and you obtain roughly 7 hours. Granted the higher levels are much longer and harder to finish than the first ones, you can add at least 2 hours, so it ends at 9 hours. Not so bad for a game sold 4.99 euros. He gave a score of 65% for longevity, I don't blame him for that, at least not directly, because that's the result of his experience with the game.

That leads us to the real problem of the review. I ask you, reader, do you think a review is professionally done when a reviewer don't read the manual/help or whatever you call it? I'm perfectly OK to admit that most users don't read manuals, it happens to me as well. But what if a reviewer doesn't read them? I don't talk about reading every line of the manual, but just ensure you didn't miss anything important so you don't make wrong assertions in your review... I spent long hours to code a feature that I will explain in detail in my next blog entry. It's a system of keys you have to find in the game, it allows you to unlock a level when you're stucked.

Obviously, the reviewer has missed it since he didn't mention it anywhere. The feature is explained in the main Help of the game, as well as in the contextual help of the Level 5. I placed the first key of the game in a way the player can not miss it in the Level 5. Then the Level selector screen reflect that by displaying a specific text and some keys. I admit I could have done that even more obvious or intuitive but I always wanted the contextual Help not to be intrusive. It's a design choice. You're not forced to read it, but you're missing a lot of useful information if you don't. So, just RTFM! I feel partially guilty, though, for not having make it even more intuitive... But how?

And thus, since the reviewer didn't find this feature, his experience with the game has lead to an understandable frustration. I quote him “This seems to be a bit of a game design problem, since the gameplay itself is not bad per se, but the repetition is. Unfortunately, just hammering away at the same level over and over is really the only way on.“ I can't blame him, but what is written is wrong, you just need to find 5 hidden keys and you can unlock a new level. No need to finish the one you're stucked at.

Therefore, he couldn't test the remaining 56% of the game where the gameplay is sometimes totally different of what it is in the first levels. Simply have a look at these 4 different screenshots.
Image Image Image Image
In Ballistic Bonbon, every level brings a few novelties. So he couldn't put his hands on the Cannon Selector or the Ball Selector features. He couldn't test either the Comet ball and the Precision cannon, which address two of the flaws he described in his review.
I quote “The game can be frustrating because there is nowhere on the display that indicates the current angle or elevation of the shot, nor any trail or tracer extending from the short barrel of the cannon.”
Yes, Steve, the ball can have a trail,
and the cannon can have a HUD
where you can set the horizontal and vertical values with precision, but that's not the basic equipment.

During my discussions with Mark, the admin of Bytten, I was asked why I placed these items at the end of the game instead of the beginning if they were the best features? And I answered, hey, when you played Super Mario World, did you start the game with the Cape power up, or with the tiny Mario? Were you invicible or do you had to wait for picking up a star? You had to discover these new features throughout the game. Guess what, that works like that in Ballistic Bonbon, you start small and you have to find new power ups by yourself. And not only the Precision cannon and the Comet ball aren't the best features of the game, but this isn't the end of the game either! They're just a part of the game, inside the Level Pack #1. There are 8 different cannons and 8 different balls in Ballistic Bonbon, where only 3 of each were used in the first 25 levels. What if you were to review Super Mario World and stopped at 44%?

I understand that the team at Bytten review games for fun and not as a professional activity, but I contacted them in a friendly manner to ask them to update their review to reflect the aspects mentioned above but they refused, that's why I made this blog entry. As a closing word, I say it again, I find the review pretty good, but just incomplete.