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Few games quite bring back that extra special feeling of childhood quite like Skee-Ball. The crashing roll of the balls after you drop your quarter, the swing, the drop in the rings. We spent a good deal of our childhood and our allowance pitching ball after ball up the ol' incline, but we rarely get a chance these days.
We're happy to say, all that has changed if only in a virtual sense.
Our first game up is Freeverse, Inc's iOS version of the classic arcade game which comes in an iPhone version as well as a bigger brother iPad-sized version, and it's exactly as we remember it. Big ten point ring with smaller rings inside for the 20, 30, and 40 point increments, with a fifty and two 100 point rings up towards the top. The balls roll down a chute to the left and you flick your finger up the lane to pitch.
Thanks for the tip, now how about a graphics upgrade, Skee-Ball HD?
Flick slowly and the ball makes a sad little jump, flick fast and you overshoot the mark. Wherever you place your finger on the lane is where your ball rolls. Shoot through your balls to get your score and, most importantly, your tickets.
Give me my tickets!
The makers threw in a few extra tricks, one being lights that flash inside the point rings to give you bonus points and the other is pure iOS accelerometer. Tilt your iDevice to the left or right and you can throw a bit of a curve on your shot to goose things along. And with your last shot, the app converts to Slo-Mo to watch your last ball land. This can be sweet victory as you score big or feel like salt in a wound when you miss the mark.
BOOM! And it's on, people!
And just like in the old arcades, you get tickets for your points. And what can you do with your tickets? Redeem them of course. Take your tix to the store and you can buy such lovely goodies as a whistle, a half-eaten donut (not kidding), a Chinese finger trap, and more. Best of all, play enough and you can redeem tickets for prizes you can use in the game, like a dragon's egg ball. (We haven't won enough to see what it can do.)
Seriously? This is our prize?
And if you grow a little tired of the usual layout, Skee-Ball has in-app purchasing to let you pick up a few expansion packs such as additional prizes, fancier lane layouts, and even tickets for the store. Music is delightfully 8-bit. We were expecting something a bit more from the 2 buck upgrade to the iPad version. Instead, graphics only appear to have been embiggened without pixellation. There are no additional prizes or options that we could discover.
We never could get our iPhone expansion packs
Skee-Ball is a slice of Americana, but we wish the developers had put a touch more high gloss on this game. Sure, we get that most Skee-Ball machines these days are a bit worse for wear, but we'd still like a little digital spit and polish on our games.
Okay, so it's not really Skee-Ball in the truest sense of the world, but The Iconfactory is scoring big time in our books with their delightful roll-ball-up-incline-to-hit-target-and-score-and-get-tickets game. Essentially the same notion, Ramp Champ has the shine we are looking for.
Tons of ramps can be added
With four ramps included, Clown Town, Breakwater Bay, Space Swarm, and Icon Garden, Ramp Champ gives you some variety to your shooting. In the first, you're knocking down what look like stuffed clowns (replete with squeaky noises). The second presents aquatic targets; the third Missile Command style aliens; the fourth classic 8-bit computer icons. Each ramp has a different design, sound effects, music, point structures, and special challenge shots.
Different kinds of ramps makes for more fun
For example, hit all the third row fish in Breakwater Bay and they're replaced with higher point sharks. Clear a row of clowns in their town and they're replaced by 100 point ducks. Every 500 points is worth one ticket, so sometimes aiming to clear a row is worth it.
Put it in the shark's chops
And instead of a scoreboard announcing your ticket payout, Ramp Champ goes to a ticket dispensing screen that spits them out (and if you want to skip this, just hit the Play Again button to get back to the action). Tap Menu to leave a ramp and go back to the selection screen where you can try your hand at a different ramp level.
Tickets, tickets, tickets!
The prizes and payouts are a little more interesting here as well. Where Skee-Ball had a somewhat limited single screen's worth of tchotchkes, Ramp Champ has screen after screen of teddy bears, tools, cars and rockets, and even the Twitterific mascot (same developers, so natch).
Prizes are a bit fancier (definitely cuter)
Four buttons at the bottom allow you to navigate to play, to spend your tickets, to see what you've bought and what trophies you've obtained unlocking special point bonuses on ramps, and to purchase add-on ramps. Each pack is $0.99 and comes with new ramp levels as well as additional prizes, trophies, and challenges.
We're a sucker for a pretty app, and Iconfactory really knows how to make adorable prizes and ramp levels. That said, we also felt that Ramp Champ's balls were a little more responsive to our aim, so this game was more than just good looking. It's always fun to play and we spend more time trying to knock over targets than we'd care to admit. With a constantly increasing series of prizes, levels, challenges and additional packages to install, Ramp Champ has so completely taken over our heart that when we see real live Skee-Ball we're always a little disappointed it isn't more like this one.