I like to think of the first Ragdoll Blaster game as being something of a cult classic among iPhone gamers. At first glance it’s a relatively simple-looking affair, a physics-based cannon game with inventive levels and funky doodle graphics. You’re given as many ragdolls as you may need, and the aim of the game is to complete all of the levels via ragdoll-target-collision-engineering. In plain English: shoot the targets with the ragdolls. It became something of an addiction to regular players, so unsurprisingly when the sequel was announced a small cheer of approval could be heard from the secret room behind the bookshelf.
Each level presents you with a cannon from which to fire your dolls and a target to hit. Between the two lies a contraption or obstacle, often of rather ingenious design. Sometimes you’re given nothing more than a stack of boxes to navigate, while other levels require you to set complex pieces of machinery in motion before finally firing the ragdoll which automatically gets carried to the target. The variety is almost staggering.
Take a peek under the surface, and the game transforms into something really quite deep. It’s all thanks to the inclusion of unlimited ragdolls per level. What some may see as an easy solution to making the game appeal to less-skilled players, others see as an opportunity. It works more or less like a reverse scoreboard. In most games the goal is to reach as high a score as possible, but here the objective is to conserve dolls and finish each room with the lowest number you can manage. It’s much, much harder than it sounds, and to see your name in the leaderboards will require an admirable degree of dedication. This is where the whole cult thing comes in, while other people are happy with merely finishing a level and moving on, some stay behind and experiment.
So in which ways does Ragdoll Blaster 2 (referred to as RB2 from here on) differ from the original? To be honest, not very many. The artwork has seen a significant upgrade, the sound has been revamped, there’s a massive selection of new levels (obviously) and the introductions of a few new elements within those levels. The whole game has been polished and refined, but underneath it all, the core game remains more or less the same. I consider this a smart choice, successful game developers know not to fix what isn’t broken, and Backflip Studios have followed that rule to the bitter end. All anyone ever craved was more, more, more, and that’s exactly what they got.
New graphics: Backflip Studios decided to ditch the sketchbook doodle approach with their new game, and the artwork it’s been replaced with is more than adequate. RB2 delivers a steampunk theme which is consistent throughout all of the levels and menu screens, and needless to say, it fits the game like a glove. It also presents a few new opportunities that doodle graphics couldn’t deliver, as we are now able to differentiate various elements from each other, fire, ice, grass… even outer space makes an appearance, complete with it’s signature weightlessness. It’s these things that propel the game away from it’s predecessor and make Ragdoll Blaster 2 a whole new experience.
Addictiveness: Just when I think I’m done with the game, something makes me go back for more. Occasionally it’s a forum post, hinting at a newly discovered trick for reducing a level score, sometimes an idea pops into my head for a possible alternate solution to a puzzle, but more often than not… I just want to play. There’s always something I can improve on, a technique that needs perfecting. Despite logic dictating that there must be a finite conclusion (i.e. all levels completed with one ragdoll), there’s never a shortage of experiments to be had.
Ingenuity: After five minutes with the game it should become apparent that the included levels were not designed within half an hour. They start off fairly plain and obvious for the sake of having a somewhat relaxing difficulty curve, but tutorials aside, the level setups are very, very impressive. Each and every one of them has been meticulously planned and prepared and the contraptions Backflip Studios have come up with are nothing less than inspiring. You’ll be assembling gears, powering pistons, destroying and creating obstructions, riding trains, detonating explosives and even skydiving before you’ve seen everything the game has to offer. It’s an absolute avalanche of amazing ideas, with only one, slight drawback…
No level editor: It seems somewhat unfair that I would list this as a dislike considering there’s not actually anything there to dislike, but in all seriousness, this game was made for level editing. The biggest flaw with RB2 is that it will inevitably end. It’ll take a long time and there’s no doubt we’re getting our moneys worth, but the inclusion of an editor, either in-app or online, would have elevated the game to new heights.
Requires patience: If you’re going for a leaderboard score, patience is not the word. Some of the highest (read: lowest) scores require use of either a glitch in the game engine, or a very particular event to occur with the physics engine. Don’t get me wrong, the game isn’t buggy at all, and that’s the beauty of it. These events are rare enough that a regular player may never see them, but a dedicated leaderboard hound will need to hunt them down. I think the largest number of times I’ve reset a level is around 100, and the longest I’ve waited for a physics event around 25 minutes. That’s 25 minutes of sitting there, doing nothing but eyeing the screen to ensure my device doesn’t go to sleep and watching my doll slowly but surely make his way down a ramp, at a pace of around one pixel per minute. Naturally, if you don’t care about scores, this entire paragraph need not apply, but if you do… prepare yourself now.
Anyone who enjoys one RB game will undoubtedly enjoy the other, as the basic idea behind both is identical. If the first game brought a smile to your face, you’ll fall instantly in love with the sequel, and if RB2 is your first venture into ragdoll humiliation, it’s well worth your time and money checking out the first game too. Either way, Ragdoll Blaster 2 serves as a classic example of how well a physics game can work on the platform, it’s addictiveness will see you through to the end, it’s charm is almost unparalleled, and perhaps above all it is unique, a rare achievement in these modern times.