Game Info:

Developed By: Crimson Owl Studios
Published By: Crimson Owl Studios
Released: August 27th, 2015
Available On: Microsoft Windows
Genre: Action, Strategy
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Number of Players: Single player with leaderboards
MSRP: $12.99

Thank you Crimson Owl Studios for sending us this game to preview!

Caromble! is a brick breaking game inspired by classic titles such as Breakout and Arkanoid. You control a flat, horizontal paddle and bounce a metal ball around the playfield, breaking bricks, causing explosions, and transforming the map. The game takes place in an industrial, apocalyptic setting where you battle the forces of chaos.

I think it's important to frame this game in the context of its creators. Crimson Owl Studios is a group of five guys who work on Caromble! once a week, on Fridays, in a living room. The game has been in development for over six years and is now in Early Access on Steam. I must admit that I have a bias against Early Access games, due to the tiny percentage of them that turn into fully released titles. With that being said, Caromble! looks promising and development continues to this day. At the time of writing this review there is a fresh update from the developers posted last week. The developers seem determined to continue working on the title to completion, however development is slow.

I really like the art-style they chose for the game. The smooth, but low-poly graphics work because the textures have this painted-on feeling. They really nail the post apocalyptic industrial setting they were going for. The powerups are brightly colored, stand out from the stage, and easy to differentiate between good and bad.The explosions and other effects are nice, but sometimes when there's a lot of visual effects on the screen there's a noticeable slowdown.


Strong Points: Art design, challenging gameplay
Weak Points: Level progression, reward system
Moral Warnings: None

The most striking part about the sound work is the intro. There's a very loud "This...is...Caromble!" at the start, but it sounds like the "a" is silent and sounds like "Cromble." The soundtrack is a mixture of pounding industrial rock beats and more low key electronica tracks. It's all mixed well and fits the game. The sound effects are adequate, but they seem low-fi and aren't synced well with the in-game events. The sound effects are definitely lacking a few layers of polish.

Despite the fancy stages and item physics, the core gameplay is the same as the classic games that inspired it: you control a horizontal paddle and bounce a ball around the stage and break blocks, taking special care not to the let the ball fall. In this game the "bricks" have been replaced by crates, boxes, and explosive barrels. After breaking a certain number of "bricks" a portal opens up and takes the ball to the next section. After completing three sections a boss, of sorts, spawns and you have it to hit five or six times to win and move on to the next level.

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score -70%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 3/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 10/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content -10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Progression in this game is extremely rigid and frustrating. There are three or four sections per level and four levels in a chapter. You have to defeat each section in order to advance to the next one and eventually defeat the boss before you can advance to the next level. When you start a level you have 2 extra balls and you may or may not find extra ones since extra balls are a random powerup. The developers have added a "mercy" mechanic where if you die, you can choose "mercy" and you'll be given another ball, but your score won't be placed on the global leaderboards. For what it's worth, there are four chapters available in the game currently and I was the 7th person ever to complete the 2nd chapter. This rigid linearity is extremely frustrating and I wish they would convert to some kind of star system where future levels could be unlocked based on achievements you accrue in each stage. The example I laid out has been the norm in a number of free-to-play mobile games, so there's no reason why this game has to be so frustrating to advance through. Even the extra skill challenges are unlocked by advancing through story mode, so if you're stuck on level, you're basically stuck in the whole game.

Caromble! supports a surprising number of control schemes. You can use keyboard, your mouse, or a controller. I tried each of these and keyboard was initially the most responsive control scheme. For some reason, the default sensitivity for the controller and mouse are set at 35% and 40% respectively. These settings make both controls schemes sub-optimal at best. Once I cranked both of these up to 90% the controller felt as good as the keyboard and the mouse became my preferred option.

Caromble! is a small, fun game that doesn't try to do too much. It's good at what it does and my major complaints can be ironed out while the game is in Early Access. There aren't really any moral issues in the game. Caromble! doesn't have any kind of narrative, only that some big red force of chaos has come and you have to defeat them by playing Breakout. You could say that since the boss is identified as a being of chaos, defeating it is a noble endeavor, but that feels like a stretch. As I said, it's a small and limited but fun game with some problems. It's priced at $12.99, which honestly I think is too high given the existing content and the snail's pace new content is added but perhaps that may be worth the investment due to there not being many new games like this being made.

About the Author

David Grue

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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