In Red Ball 3, you play as the titular character–a red ball with a face. There is an animation when you first start the game that gives the overall story–the evil Black Ball has kidnapped your girlfriend, a purple ball, and you must rescue her by making your way through all 20 levels.
In each level, you are searching for the three stars (some of which are hidden), before making your way to the flag at the end of the level. To collect the stars, you roll, jump or push your way through various obstacles. I had never played the two prior titles the Red Ball franchise before playing this game. However, looking back at those games now, it appears that the game play is similar. On one side of the screen, there are left and right arrows which determine which direction you roll and on the other side of the screen, a big button to make you jump.
The game offers a Lefty/Righty option for choosing which side is which. There is a nice puzzle aspect to the game. For example, you may need to figure out how where to push a box to activate a button or to reach a high object. Or you may need to flip switches or find a secret path in the wall in order to locate a hidden star. The game also has a lot of arcade action. Once you start rolling, it is difficult to stop, so there is the constant back and forth balancing, as well as trying to time your jumps to land on swinging platforms, or jump over spikes, or criss-cross up a pit via bouncy platforms.
Throughout the game, there is a cheery soundtrack playing, and there’s comical sound effects when you jump or hit an obstacle. For longer levels, there are checkpoint flags so that if you die while trying to get past an obstacle, you don’t need to start all over again. I don’t have a Mac, but one neat feature of this game is that it allows you to play the Mac version of the game on your Mac’s screen and use your iPhone or iPod as a gamepad. I tried the game out on both the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2, and for the most part really enjoyed the game.
However, there were a few levels that got quite frustrating due to a very low margin of error for the timing, or needing to stop the ball, or do a precise roll/jump/stop. There are only 20 levels in the game, so it isn’t very long. Once you complete all the levels, there is a bonus area that lets you switch your character between Red Ball, his girlfriend or the evil Black Ball. From what I could tell, there was no change to the levels based on which character you were using.
In conclusion, Chillingo offers Red Ball 3 HD as a universal app as well as a non-HD iPhone-only app for half the price. Red Ball 1 and Red Ball 2 have free versions which may be worth checking out to see if you like the gameplay, or if you enjoy Red Ball 3 and just want more!