(3DS eShop)

Art of Balance TOUCH! (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Art of Balance TOUCH! Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by James Newton

Art of brilliance

WiiWare puzzler Art of Balance is one of the best games on the service: instinctive and addictive, it made the well-worn act of stacking shapes feel fresh again. Now on the 3DS eShop, Art of Balance TOUCH! keeps the winning formula going.

The premise to Art of Balance is simple. In each stage you're given blocks of various shapes, and you have to arrange them into a stable formation that won't fall over once the final block is laid. It sounds almost insultingly simple, but devious design soon sets in: round blocks are tough to balance anywhere but the top of your stack, and cross or semi-circular shapes can give your brain a real twisting.

When you've got to grips with all the shapes, blocks with new properties appear. Glass blocks shatter if three things are stacked on top of them; timer blocks disappear a few seconds after a shape touches them. Figuring out how the shapes fit together and in what order is some of the best mental exercise the eShop has yet offered, and executing your plan takes skill and a steady hand, using either the touch screen or buttons.

Like Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! before it, Shin'en's second WiiWare-to-eShop transition carries all the stages from the home console version and adds new ones on top. Art of Balance's four worlds double to eight, each of which introduces new block types, shapes and platform styles. Even if you race through the first four worlds, the game's second half can be a cruel master.

It's not just mean for meanness' sake, though. The introduction of a new block type that flips gravity is a real game-changer – drop it anywhere in your stack and gravity changes from down to up or vice versa. Far from just making better use of vertical space, it adds another dimension to each stack: the top could become the bottom, necessitating smarter, more precise planning than before.

The introduction of these new elements late in the game makes its latter half last far longer than the initial stages, particularly for those who've already clocked the first half on the WiiWare release. You're looking at some solid hours of play to see it through to completion, and while there's no replay value in Arcade mode the all-new Endurance mode, opened up after finishing the first world, rectifies that.

Essentially a score attack or challenge mode, Endurance gives you one random puzzle after the other, dishing out points based on difficulty and how quickly you solved it. It's not just puzzles you've already clocked either, testing your ability to think on the fly instead of recalling past solutions. The random selection of puzzles might irritate some but the bonuses accrued for completing tougher teasers takes off some of the edge. After you lose three lives you see how you fare on the system's leaderboard, though it's a shame you can't compare these scores to your friends'.

Another missed opportunity is the lack of level creator: while we've all been spoiled by Pushmo's level editor and sharing, Art of Balance was a perfect candidate for puzzle players to show off their handiwork. There's still plenty to last here, though.

Rounding out the content offering are 13 achievement-style awards - “amass 100,000 points in Endurance mode”, “solve 150 levels” - but sadly WiiWare's multiplayer mode hasn't made the leap. It's all wrapped up in typically glossy Shin'en visuals (though the water is a little off), though the 3D effect doesn't grant any gameplay advantages. With two styles of camera – one where objects seem to come out of the screen, the other granting depth – you can suit yourself. Taking the edge off all the frustrating failures is a gloriously soothing lounge soundtrack.

Conclusion

Even for WiiWare veterans, Art of Balance: Touch! is worth the double-dip for the extra puzzles, blocks and endurance mode, plus the ability to play on the go. Deceptively simple and gloriously satisfying, it's another strong addition to the eShop's puzzle line up.

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User Comments (40)

FonistofCruxis

#3

FonistofCruxis said:

I was expecting it to get a 9/10 like the Wiiware version as it seemed like the better version. It may lack the multi-player that the Wiiware version has but is that really that important. That's the only advantage the Wiiware version seems to have over this version.

Ernest_The_Crab

#5

Ernest_The_Crab said:

From the sounds of it, the game comes with more content than the WiiWare version, with better visuals? Looks like the bigger 3DSWare size limit has a pretty big impact.

Maybe we'll see some other WiiWare to 3DSWare adaptions?

Kagamine

#8

Kagamine said:

@HeroOfWaffles He never said it was. From what i gathered he thinks its better, it includes all the Wii levels and then some. Plus its a different reviewer, ergo different opinions.

ThomasBW84Admin

#9

ThomasBW84 said:

Just to pitch in while James is away from the site (and because I proofed it), this almost got a 9. There are a few complaints in there about a lack of multiplayer, local leaderboards only, and that a level creation option didn't make it. As someone's said, different reviewers lead to different opinions, and it's also judged under current-day circumstances. The original was two years ago on a different platform, and I think having online leaderboards and multiplayer would have probably tipped this one over.

Bear in mind that the 3DS and eShop are starting to set good standards for online and multiplayer, particularly as the latter was on the Wii title. Not all games include these kinds of features, but it's about context. As you can probably tell though it seems to be a high quality game, it's a very good score and, frankly, it's got me tempted to put down some cash for it.

FonistofCruxis

#10

FonistofCruxis said:

It probably was because of it having a different reviewer. It looks like a great game anyway and I'll definitely get it at some point.

welsh_gamer

#12

welsh_gamer said:

Downloaded this on Saturday and it's just great. So far, I've spent just under 4 hours with the game and haven't completed half the puzzles yet! Currently stuck on a really tricky problem on World 4....

James

#14

James said:

Pushmo set the 3DS puzzle game bar pretty high. This is more expensive and doesn't have quite as much content, but it's still a damn good puzzle game, hence the 8.

Firejonie

#15

Firejonie said:

I will get this when it comes to NA. I hope Shinen continues to bring more games to the eShop. Plus I really like their colorful art style in all of their games.

TruenoGT

#18

TruenoGT said:

Alright, now let's get a FAST Racing League port to the 3DS with multi-player and I'll be a happy camper.

BenAV

#19

BenAV said:

@James Good review.
I totally agree with your score.
It's a really fun game, but doesn't feel quite as polished overall as Pullblox or some of the other top quality eShop games.

Supremeist

#20

Supremeist said:

Not planning on getting it when it comes to NA, but I will keep it in my wishlist. Seems pretty cool.

H_Hunter

#21

H_Hunter said:

I played the Wii version of the game and I guess I had enough with blocks stacking. Better to give the chance to something new.

chewytapeworm

#22

chewytapeworm said:

8 is a sound score. I can't argue with it at all.

Controls are perfect in comparison to waggling a Wiimote at the tv, and the gameplay seems faster and smoother. Could've done with a couple more tweaks perhaps to distance itself slightly from its Wiiware cousin, as they're just too identical, but that's not too bad a thing. Good review!

PixelatedPixie

#23

PixelatedPixie said:

I was a big fan of the Wiiware version and am enjoying this 3DS release as well. Still, I'm surprised the review does not mention the game's physics which can often be a little dodgy. There are certain blocks for instance which dont behave as they should. One block, which is a circle with four legs poking off diagonally, for instance has the uncanny ability to balance on one of it's legs even when it really shouldn't. There are also cases throughout where the rules of gravity established in the game don't quite know what to do, and as a result blocks will shake or vibrate until they fall, despite being perfectly balanced. There are numerous other examples of this type of thing. I still really enjoyed the game, but the physics engine could definitely use a little work.

James

#24

James said:

@PixelatedPixie Must be honest and say I haven't noticed those particular physics quirks! The water was a bit funky but other than that things seemed okay to me, apart from objects not bouncing of course.

chewytapeworm

#25

chewytapeworm said:

I noticed both "quirks," they don't spoil the enjoyment of the game, more rather I raise a wry smile whenever they do happen. I am gutted the water doesn't seem to splash the screen anymore if a block falls in. Would have looked kinda cool with the 3d slider up!

PixelatedPixie

#26

PixelatedPixie said:

@James - yeah, the quirks are pretty minor in the grand scheme of things and hopefully most people won't experience these issues. Just thought it was worth me mentioning it.

@chewytapeworm - True, it can sometimes be funny to see the physics wig out. On a few challenges though it became pretty irritating, especially when you know that the way you're approaching a puzzle is valid, your execution is perfect, but the physics and rules established by the game just don't act as they should. All in all though it's still a great game.

cheapogamer4life

#27

cheapogamer4life said:

Thanks for the review James!
I really enjoyed the wiiware demo and I thought their 3ds mini golf game was nice so i'll be sure to grab this one when it comes to the states.

Henmii

#29

Henmii said:

Well, I like Art of balance but was never a gigantic fan of it. So I am not sure if I download this one. Maybe, maybe not.

med088

#30

med088 said:

how do I switch between depth and pop-out 3D styles? the manual doesn't mention it at all. thanks!

supercommando440

#32

supercommando440 said:

Can you ROTATE THE SHAPES? I watched a short video and it looked like the guy had no idea how to play. If you can't rotate the shapes, not so sure about this. Can you rotate the view? Is this a psuedo-3D game.. i.e. it's got 3D-ish effects but you only get the front 2D view?

supercommando440

#34

supercommando440 said:

This game sucks. The physics are not accurate. Puzzles slide without any reason. Stack a few blocks and all is good. Stack a few more the same way and for no reason the blocks start to slide and fall. Lame game.

Tuberocity

#36

Tuberocity said:

Bit late to the fray, but bought this title, and it's great! Yes, the physics sometimes seem off, but this just adds to the challenge. Challenging puzzler, great time killer as it saves automatically, play for minutes or hours, great game for $7 bucks.

SonicTheBluBlur

#37

SonicTheBluBlur said:

@NintendoLife This is just one of your amazing reviews. The reason I come here for reviews is because you guys know what you're talking about more than the people at IGN. Also, I will not buy a platform unless it's made by Nintendo. Keep up the good work!

MC808

#38

MC808 said:

This is a truly brilliant and enjoyable game. I do have a couple of issues, though. Sometimes the camera makes things more difficult than they need to be. For example, it zooms in while I'm trying to carefully guage where to place a block, which forces me to readjust and compensate for it. Another issue I have is that the camera is very reluctant to pan up really high, which is a problem with the levels that are about height. Despite all that, I really like this game. It's more than worth the $7 I paid for it.
EDIT: Ok, the wonky camera is actually making it IMPOSSIBLE to complete World D Level 7.5. It's a height based level, so I think you can see where this would be slightly problematic..
EDIT 2: Good news! Switching to Camera B allowed the camera to pan up enough to finish the aforementioned level. Having completed about two-thirds of the game I'm still enjoying it immensely, but the difficulty level is all over the place. You'll be presented with a real brain-buster followed by a laughably easy level. The most frustrating of all the levels so far has got to be the ones with a time limit. Some are brutally hard. I'm sure if I fail to comple 100% of the game it will be because of a timed level. As I continue playing, and eventually finish, I'll report back with more... if anyone is interested. I realize I'm a little bit late to the party here, but because I like this game so much, I'm motivated to tell as many people as possible about it.
:)

MC808

#39

MC808 said:

@SonicTheBluBlur "..I will not buy a platform unless it's made by Nintendo."
Man, with that philosophy you're missing out on some damn good games. :/
Loyalty is admirable, but being a fanboy...not so much. Just my opinion. I don't mean to insult you.

Tops

#40

Tops said:

I finally tried the demo and am really enjoying it! Can't believe it's taken so long for me to give this game a chance!

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