Backlash is a bumper pool-like physics-based puzzle game by Sinecure Industries in which you must try to ricochet a ball into a hole within a designated number of bounces. Simply touch and hold your finger on the screen and an arrow will appear between your finger and the ball. Drag your finger toward the ball to reduce the power and adjust the target of your shot. Let go and you’re ball will launch in the direction of the arrow, bouncing off any walls and obstacles that get in its way, hopefully reaching the vacuum hole where it will get sucked in and you’ll complete the level. In all, the game has 40 levels as well as a free-play mode where there is no specified number of bounces allowed to successfully complete a level.
The physics engine used in the game responds well and the motion of the ball seems realistic and proper. There is even a cool vacuum effect when the ball get’s close to the hole and summarily sucked in. Overall, Backlash is a fun and challenging puzzle game, but like many other titles developed using GameSalad’s App development tool, (at least on my 2nd gen iPod Touch) it does suffer from some performance deficiencies. For starters, the game takes about 25 seconds to initially load, and in between levels, or if you choose to restart a level, the load times are a bit longer than desired. GameSalad also lacks hooks into any of the popular social networking platforms, meaning that unless a homebrew system is used (at substantial extra development costs), there are no global leaderboards or achievements. GameSalad has said that they will be implementing Apple’s new Game Center system, but unfortunately until that happens, Backlash will remain a solo affair. The good news is that Sinecure told us that the sluggish nature of GameSalad is dramatically diminished on newer hardware including the 3GS and 3rd Gen iPod Touches. This is because the GameSalad engine has been optimized to take advantage of the newer hardware, but their streamlining of performance issues on older devices is taking much longer than many developers would like.
Outside of addressing the deficiencies of GameSalad, which are obviously out of Sinecure’s hands, we’d love to see the Freeplay mode changed to allow the player to select any level, rather than having to play through all the levels in order. Backlash’s scoring system was a bit confusing, but since there were no global leaderboards, I didn’t really see this as much of an issue since I found the challening of successfully finishing levels more interesting than score. The developer did mention that they will be adding in a level select screen that keeps track of your high score on individual levels (in challenge mode) and most likely scoring in Free Play mode will be eliminated. Finally, at the start of a level it is easy to accidentally launch your ball while waiting for the level info popup to disappear, forcing you to wait and restart the level over again.
Backlash is an easy to play, but difficult to master puzzle game with a hip steampunk style. It could use a bit of tweaking to round out the scoring system and add global leaderboards. Players on older devices may have a less than ideal play experience due to the deficiencies of the GameSalad platform. Having only played the game on an older device, I can say that these delays are by no means a dealbreaker, just a bit of a nuisance. Overall, Backlash offers a nice amount of entertainment for your 99¢.