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Publisher: Ambrosia Software    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.2.8    CPU: G3    Graphics: 32 MB VRAM

April 21, 2005 | Mark Satterthwaite

Click to enlarge
GooBall is the first game from Mac start-up Over the Edge Entertainment (OTEE) and recently released by highly successful shareware publisher Ambrosia Software. Over the years Ambrosia has brought to Mac gamers a host of what many in the wider gaming sphere consider are superb underground hits, such as Maelstrom and Escape Velocity and its sequels; GooBall is a game that deserves no less praise.

But what is GooBall? It's the small, deformable refracting ball the main character has been trapped in; not exactly how it had planned to spend its existence I'm sure! So ensconced, the 'Goober' has no choice but to try and escape the clutches of its captors by navigating the hazardous mazes before it.

Simply put the game is a clone of Sega's Super Monkey Ball series, but that is to miss it's own unique charms and innovations. Each level is a giant three-dimensional maze, with the aim being to guide the Goober to the end, indicated by a gate. Against the clock of course. In each level there is usually a clear, well defined path through the level, and following this will in most cases be the fastest, safest, and least rewarding way to reach the end. Venture off the beaten track and there is the opportunity to pick up crystals; collecting ten of these staples of video-gaming will grant a new life. The faster the level is completed and the more crystals are collected the higher the score that is achieved.

Rather than actually moving the Goober through the level the player controls the pitch and yaw of the environment itself, allowing the Goober to be controlled indirectly. This lends the game a somewhat unique feel: the Goober appears, and certainly at times feels, like it has a mind of it's own. This can be a double-edged sword with the Goober failing to respond to changes at high-speed, but generally the developers have successfully created a feeling of controlled chaos.

But OTEE has given its Goober a few new tricks that Sega's Monkey still hasn't learned four years later on. You see, the 'Goo' in GooBall is more than some reference to the Goober's ability to stick to surfaces. No, wait, that's exactly what it means. Unlike similar games, there are few limits to where the Goober can reach since it can stick to and climb up surfaces. Want to get that crystal on top of the tower over there? Jump and hold the Command key to make the Goober stick, then simply climb up. This ability can also be used as an impromptu brake in the faster portions of the game, preventing the Goober from disappearing over the edge of particularly precarious cliffs, or to allow for precise control over narrow ramps. Jumping when in Goo-mode is also somewhat different: rather than simply moving upward the Goober will instead be propelled perpendicular to the surface it's sitting upon. This allows for a series of spheres or balloon's hanging in the air to be used as unintended platforms to new areas in the level. This ability is extensively used in later levels, making it an essential skill by the half-way mark.


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