As ports of mobile games take up more and more online marketplace space, it's easy - if not completely fair - to dismiss them as competition with first party or even console-specific indie titles. Viewed by some as shallow and disposable time killers at best, and at worst... well, you get the idea. The phenomenon that arguably started all this can be traced back all the way to a little physics-based puzzle game featuring a group of avians with flying and anger issues. While mobile games coming to consoles have had mixed fortunes, the combination of portability as well as a more conventional input setup on the Nintendo Switch is no doubt attractive to developers looking to give their IP another home.
Along with the recent turn around of Nintendo entering the mobile space with Super Mario Run, Fire Emblem Heroes and the upcoming Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, 'conventional' mobile genres such as endless runners and match-three puzzle games are finding their way onto the Nintendo Switch, along with more 'console-like experiences' - but at a premium price. While titles such as VOEZ and Piczle Lines DX start on iOS / Android as free titles with song or stage packs available as optional add-ons, the Switch versions have contained all previously released content in one package for a higher but - in our opinion - justified cost.
Furthermore, bite-sized yet fulfilling games such as Pan-Pan can also warrant their place on the Nintendo eShop alongside tentpole releases. Regardless of all this, whichever side of the fence you fall on, mobile games on Nintendo Switch are here to stay.
King Oddball joins the list, and is a remarkably simple yet deceptively addictive physics-based puzzle game from 10tons. Despite your tyrannical ambition, you take the role of a... well, a head. Just a head that has an incredibly long, purple tongue and a pumpkin (or a moon) as a helmet. He is hell bent on taking over the world, lobbing one rock at a time with the objective of simply obliterating anything on screen.
The stage selection is displayed as a battlefield grid split into 4x4 square sections, and each level (of which there are well over 100) gives you three rocks to throw at stone structures and various military vehicles. Swinging from side to side like a pendulum, you will reach out to grab with your aforementioned tongue and launch with a tap on the screen or a face button; you'll get rocks back for hitting more than three targets in a row. Completing a level and navigating the grid will reveal how much of the world map you have conquered. Learning the game's timing, and how different materials react to your onslaught, is the secret to world domination. There are always a couple of different levels to go for if you get frustrated, and they are brief, weird and straight down to business.
There are also intermittent bonus levels and achievements to unlock, as well as the odd challenge level to mix things up, but all in all the game follows a pretty basic structure - start, throw, flatten everything and receive an appropriate compliment based on your proficiency.
The motion feels a bit slow, in our view, but it's nonetheless satisfying when an explosive combo is strung together, and while the game does look (and especially sound) decent enough on a big screen, it suits the portable nature of the Switch better.
The presentation is similarly functional if not spectacular. Silhouetted skylines or mountain ranges are visible in front of saturated and almost impressionistic backgrounds, while cartoon-like explosions and different types of structures add a little range. The limited soundtrack is suitably ominous yet comedic, in a slapstick crime caper kind of way, and sound effects are satisfyingly impactful.
What we have, when all is said and done, is a one button puzzler. There's no control over anything besides when you release the rock, and the skill comes in the form of physics-based judgment. For its simplicity there is enough content, dark and quirky charm to give it a go considering its low price tag, but its mobile origins mean it feels a little basic.
King Oddball joins the increasing number of mobile titles making their way onto Switch; it is a competent, quirky yet basic puzzle game. It highlights the type of titles that the Switch can attract, for better or worse, and as cheap, whimsical fun, it will probably consume more time than you'd care to admit.
It's not a bad game, but the hard to ignore mobile origins - and seeing what else is available and what the Switch can do - makes King Oddball a fun little distraction and nothing more. It's worth picking up if you have a yearning for a quick, simple palate cleanser, and whether you've previously become addicted to the projectile flinging / destruction puzzle genre, avian or not, there is nothing here that will change your mind either way.