Pachinko puzzling with Superball
Superball is a casual pachinko-inspired puzzle game for Facebook from Korean social game developer CookApps. The game draws extremely heavy inspiration from PopCap’s popular Peggle series, which so far has not made it to Facebook in either its original form or a quick-fire “Blitz” format.
In Superball, players are armed with a ball-firing cannon at the top of the play area and tasked with ridding the screen of red pegs, which either come in small round or larger rectangular brick-like forms. The player scores higher by achieving “combos,” where a single shot hits many pegs before dropping off the bottom of the screen. A limited stock of balls is available to complete each level, though players may get an extra shot by landing the ball in a moving bin at the bottom of the play area rather than simply allowing it to “drain” off the screen.
Removing all the red pegs triggers “Fever Time,” when the player scores additional points for every peg hit before the ball falls into one of several bins at the bottom of the screen. This is accompanied by a piece of classical music — while Peggle used “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 during its equivalent “Extreme Fever” time, Superball uses the overture from Bizet’s opera Carmen. In a twist on Peggle’s format, filling a score target meter on the right of the screen before removing the last peg triggers “Max Fever Time,” which allows the players to gain significantly higher bonuses due to the appearance of multiple balls on screen.
The simple game format is given some extra complexity by the use of “magic balls,” which become available after completing a certain number of levels or acquiring a particular number of stars, up to three of which are awarded for breaking increasingly-difficult score thresholds in each level. As the game progresses, the player gains the ability to equip up to three of these magic balls, which cost soft currency each time they are used. This is another deviation from Peggle’s format, which allows players to select a character who has a single special ability triggered by hitting special green pegs.
Social features are limited to a leaderboard for each level, though there’s no means of seeing global rankings, only friends. Players also have the opportunity to share a Timeline post celebrating their achievements and offering free soft currency to any friends who use this link to try the game. Players earn extra soft currency for having more friends playing, but the game is rather pushy about getting players to recruit additional players. The first thing that happens before even the tutorial starts is the automatic appearance of an invitation popup addressed to 50 random friends from the player’s Facebook account, for example. This popup appears every time the game is started and also after periods of inactivity.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Superball probably would not exist in its present form were it not for Peggle. Given the absence of PopCap’s well-known peg-busting title on Facebook, though, CookApps’ offering provides a decent social take on pachinko-style physics puzzling, and the variety of energy packs and boosters on offer mean that it’s likely to monetize well among fans of this style of game.
Superball, which launched in January of this year, was the 12th fastest-growing Facebook game by DAU this week. At the time of writing, it has 1,300,000 monthly active users and 310,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.
Peggle’s influence on the game may be a little too obvious, but given the absence of PopCap’s pachinko puzzler on Facebook, Superball is a solid substitute likely to enjoy some success.