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Simpler, smaller games live or die because of their central gimmick, an idea to grab the player and get them to pay attention. Unfortunately, Antonball Deluxes Great design doesn’t quite do it justice WarioWare-like presentation.
So what’s the deal? You have a pretty strong central idea in Antonball; think Arkanoidbut with a little platform character instead of a bat. We think that’s a fun concept, but we found it uniquely frustrating to execute. Both the ball and Anton himself just seem too small, with too much wiggle room to miss. Yes, you’ll be fine, we hear you, but in practice the most efficient way to “get good” is simply to find a place where the ball is always accessible on its return journeys, and then practically just to get there stand, fall down, or jump high to hit the ball when it flies either low or high. It’s less than exciting.
The tragedy is that it should be really fun; there really aren’t any other weak elements here. Visually it is absolutely clear and crisp, music and sound effects are a blast and the controls are responsive. It’s just that the gameplay isn’t particularly fun here. It’s tainted by some weird choices too – you have a Wario-esque dash / ram attack, but it only works on the ball rather than the enemies falling on the field, which is terribly unintuitive. You can get a gun to help you mop up the last few stones – but it’s such an embarrassing thing that even blasting it off isn’t fun.
However! Antonball Deluxe has an ace up its sleeve, namely its multiplayer ability. And we mean that pretty loud, because in multiplayer this game is a lot of fun. It’s also ridiculously easy when you can basically cover the entire screen, but that’s how Antonball should be played, and it’s worth considering if you’re looking for a new couch co-op title to enjoy. There’s also Vs. Antonball, a variation where two teams try to break through each other on either side of the screen, but we found this a bit too manic to be worth more than a handful of games.
We can’t fault the presentation here as there is plenty to see and do. In addition to numerous unlockable characters and levels (via a Smash Bros. Melee Combat-esque lottery), we haven’t even mentioned the other included game, Punchball. This is essentially the original from Nintendo Mario brothers. (as popularized by Super Mario Bros. 3 ‘ Battle games or packed with each one Super Mario Advance Title), except that you’re throwing a ball at enemies to knock them down instead of hitting the stones they’re walking on. It’s about as fun as Mario Bros., that is … well … there’s a reason the plumber is awesome.
Overall, Antonball Deluxe is a tricky game to review. As a solo game it’s an easy pass, but in multiplayer we can see that it clicks with the right group. It didn’t set our world on fire, but its simple charms may work for you and your friends.