Ionball 2: Ionstorm is a modern-day take on the classic brick-breaking games of our past. Developed by Ironsun Studios, Ionball 2: Ionstorm has some pretty large shoes to fill if it plans on making a name for itself. Today we’re taking a look at the final product to see how it stacks up to the classics.
Many gamers are likely familiar with Breakout-style games. You control a paddle, move it around to reflect a ball, and try to aim the ball to break apart some bricks. Sometimes the game features power-up abilities that fall from the bricks. That’s pretty much the long and short of this style of game. Ionball 2: Ionstorm hopes to evolve this genre in the form of an experience-based leveling system and full 3d environments. Even just looking at its predecessor, Ionball, Ionball 2: Ionstorm aims to raise the bar for decidedly stale genre.
First and foremost, Ionball 2: Ionstorm is a game that feels current. As displayed in the trailer, the game features a very modern instrumental-based soundtrack and flashy visuals. Despite the old-school genre it’s based on, Ionball 2: Ionstorm’s soundtrack isn’t some generic sounding chiptune homage to the classics. Instead, players enjoy a musical score that ranges from metalish instrumentals with a Metallica or Slayer feel, to electronic tracks that vary from Nine Inch Nails-like to a more modern Skrillex feel. I imagine most gamers will find some songs particularly enjoyable, although there may be an age limit to how much enjoyment one might get out of the noise emitting through their speakers. Gamers over 40 might just want to turn the speakers completely off. Having initially watched the trailer for the game, I was actually surprised with soundtrack’s variety. I certainly wasn’t prepared for metal-influenced songs to mix in with the dubstep example from the trailer. All in all, the soundtrack is actually pretty excellent, if somewhat limited.
The visuals feel quite fitting for a modern-day take on the genre. Rather than simply moving a pad to bounce a ball onto bricks, players control a spaceship that bounces a ball into droid-like enemies. Everything has a sci-fi feel, with maybe a dash of steampunk too. Particle effects are in full-force during play. Droids explode spectacularly, the Ionball leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. There’s so many things flashing and exploding on the screen at once that it can sometimes be tough to even focus on the path of your ball as it plummets back towards your ship. Players definitely won’t just feel like they’re playing some casual browser-based arcade game. Visually, Ionball 2: Ionstorm is everything I’d want to see in a game like this.
Ionball 2: Ionstorm was not all butterflies and rainbows unfortunately. On release, I did encounter a mouse sticking problem that seemed to plague a number of other players as well. Thankfully a recent patch seems to have fixed this bug. I also found the number of songs in the soundtrack to be a bit short. Although the selection was enjoyable, within the first 30 minutes of gameplay, I found that I had exhausted the playlist and was now doomed to hear repeats forever. Whereas most games can get away with this, Ionball 2: Ionstorm couldn’t. The songs are just so unique, they really put themselves at the forefront of the game. This complaint was also remedied by the free Assault Tower DLC update that was recently released which add a new gameplay mode as well as new musical tracks.
The most annoying issue I encountered during my playthrough was the lack of Steam Cloud support. While the game features Steam Leaderboards, it lacks many of the more common Steam features such as achievements, trading cards, and most importantly Steam Cloud. During my time with the game I decided to upgrade my review machine from Windows 7 to Windows 8.1. As most games these days support saving to the Steam Cloud it didn’t occur to me to even check if this game was one of them. This resulted in me losing all of my progress with the game, including the experience-based upgrades that I’d battled so hard to get. It’s entirely my fault, but I do wish that the game had included Steam Cloud support as it’s casual enough of a game to warrant installing on a laptop for a quick gaming session while you’re out and about away from your desktop.
After all is said and done, despite a few issues at release, Ionball 2: Ionstorm is a well made and enjoyable experience. It diversifies itself enough to be a worthy evolution to a genre that some people probably haven’t touched in at least a decade. While it isn’t the most challenging game on earth, what Breakout-style game is? Ionball 2: Ionstorm is a step above casual without being too hardcore for the masses, which is probably right where it should be.