An Enjoyable Balancing Act
Shin'en is a company known for its technical prowess when it comes to the games it develops for the platforms it commits to. We have seen this in the past with the Game Boy Advance's Iridion and its sequel, the Nintendo DS's two Nanostray games, and the WiiWare service's Jett Rocket, FAST Racing League, and Art of Balance, the latter of which's 3DSWare sequel is the subject of this review. If the popular party game Jenga has shown us anything, it is that trying to balance a tower of blocks and the end result of them all toppling over can certainly hold some entertainment value. Art of Balance TOUCH! is a game where this principle holds true.
The main aim of Art of Balance TOUCH! with regards to gameplay is to build a steady tower using the blocks provided. When you start each level, you have a starting pedestal (usually shaped differently for every level) on which to place the blocks you are given. When there's more than three blocks to work with, you have to use some strategy as you can only pick from the starting three blocks available to you, and not the ones awaiting you in the queue. The blocks themselves have all sorts of dissimilar shapes like L blocks, rectangular blocks, round blocks, barbell-shaped blocks, and more.
|Three seconds can seem like an eternity.|
|Those timer blocks really have a short fuse.|
The terrific part about how Art of Balance TOUCH! is structured is that each world has its own map, a series of blocks connected in a nonlinear fashion. There's multiple paths to choose from, so if you are finding one level impossible to solve - constantly seeing your hard work fall to the wayside and go crashing down into a pool of your own failure, you can opt to go around it and try to solve an easier path of puzzles. Special orange blocks are unique levels where the approach you must take differs greatly from the normal pace of the game. For these, you might have to clear a level within a strict time limit, balance a series of blocks on a balancing beam, or have a block tower that reaches a certain height. These orange block levels give you more rings than a normal level as they are harder to complete. The rings you earn from them are used to unlock new worlds - each of which is set in a distinctive environment, from World A's pink flowers to World B's bamboo background.
|Having trouble with one particular level?|
Go around it and try another path.
Regardless of the bevy of block-placing fun that Art of Balance TOUCH! bestows on the player, there are two glaring omissions that I would have liked to see the game possess. The first of which is some kind of local play for two friends with their own 3DS systems to play either competitively or cooperatively: trying to solve a level before the other can, or working together to deduce the solution to a given level. The other omission is some form of a level creator. Imagine the replay value of designing your own creative concoctions and sending them to friends Pushmo-style.
|All we need now for this pool of water|
is a rubber ducky to make things even more fun.
Art of Balance TOUCH! can be played with touch controls (my preferred method) or with the Circle Pad (this is much slower as you must drag the cursor to each block you wish to place down). The shoulder buttons of the 3DS are used to rotate each shape to the left or to the right, though the degrees you can actually rotate each shape are predetermined to make the process simpler on the mind and less agonizing to place each block. I did have some trouble with the camera zooming in and out at times. When I was trying to have a steady hand to place a block delicately, the camera zoomed out and messed up my subtle approach, causing the tower to be imbalanced and - you guessed it - fall over. This only seems to happen when your tower is exceptionally high. It's a small problem, but one that can annoy just slightly.
|Gravity can be your greatest friend or your worst enemy.|
While Art of Balance TOUCH! obviously isn't a game that will get 3DS owners to run to get their handhelds online and to the eShop to download the game, it is one that will pick their brains, is extremely capable, is mostly relaxing, and is definitely worthy of some of their hard-earned dough. For those who already own the WiiWare original, this 3DS version adds virtually double the amount of levels, has phenomenal physics, and has much more precise controls thanks to the use of the stylus (though camera problems do arise as do some visual errors). For those who haven't experienced the WiiWare game and enjoy a lovely puzzler, Art of Balance TOUCH! is delightful and worth checking out.
[SuperPhillip Says: 8.5/10]