Polandball Review

Developer: Alien Pixel Studios // Publisher: Alien Pixel Studios // Price: $2.99 (eShop/Steam)
Review copy received from publisher

As someone who has dabbled in game design, I know that inspiration can come from almost anywhere when coming up with ideas for a game.  Romanian developer Alien Pixel Studios created a game influenced by an unlikely source: a meme about a ball that can’t make it into space.

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What Goes Up…

Based on the Polandball meme, Polandball: Can Into Space is an interesting mashup, combining arcade and roguelite gameplay.  The game quickly shows its app-based roots. The game starts with a small amount of money, a menu of upgrades and a launch button. There is no direction when the game starts and no tutorial or explanation of rocket parts or attributes.  Being unfamiliar with the subject matter, it was up to me to connect the dots and figure out what the objective is and how to meet that goal.  Launching from the ground, players control Polandball’s rocket through the atmosphere toward space, but the journey is difficult as multiple obstacles hinder progress.  As the rocket travels toward space, two resources must be juggled.  Along with a quickly depleting fuel tank, other countryballs attack the rocket, degrading it’s strength.

…Must Come Down

If either of these resources are reduced to zero, the rocket will explode. Get ready because it will explode a lot!  Expect that every launch will end in disaster.  The journey can be extended by picking up hamburgers (huh?) to increase the rocket’s strength and fuel bags to continue the push toward the Exosphere.  These items are randomly placed throughout the atmosphere, however there is radar available to help locate them as the complete airspace is not viewable on screen.

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Here We Go Again (and Again and Again)

Also displayed on the radar is money which becomes a necessity for rocket upgrades.  With six different rocket parts and seven different passive abilities to build up, there will be an abundance of launches for Polandball before it finally makes it into space.  This is where Polandball: Can Into Space falters.  With so many options and the expense to raise each one to the next level becomes greater and greater, progression moves at a snail’s pace.  Launch after launch, I ended up at roughly the same height every time despite upgrading almost everything at least one level.  Although each part improves the rocket’s stats, I feel that the parts are more cosmetic than anything else.

Crowded Airspace

For a game with such a simple premise, it would not be surprising to see a developer use a small number of enemies, each one a different color to give the impression of variety.  That isn’t the case with Polandball: Can Into Space.  There are a large number of countryballs used as enemies.  Someone took a lot of time to create each individual countryball and its attack type.  For example, the Romanian countryball appears to be based on Dracula (or a bat) that sucks away health as it flits around the rocket, and the Japanese countryball dashes from off-screen in a kamikaze attack.  Not all countryballs are enemies though.  The Netherlands and Jamaican countryball provide a boost to propel the rocket higher.  I’m sure the connection between getting high(er) and these countryballs is purely coincidental.   When the countryballs attack, Polandball says things in broken English and text speak, much like what is depicted in the comics and memes.  Unfortunately this comes across as culturally insensitive, especially to those who aren’t fans of the memes.  The theme already makes this a niche game, and this might drive away players that are mildly interested.

Final Verdict

At its core, Polandball: Can Into Space is a mediocre arcade game.  It doesn’t do anything wrong, but there is also nothing terribly impressive about the game.  Unfortunately, Polandball: Can Into Space retains its app-based appearance and adds nothing in its movement to consoles.  The intent appears to be something to play while waiting in line at the store.  For a console game, the slow progression helps the game overstay its welcome.  With every launch ending in roughly the same place for me even after upgrading the rocket, boredom set in rather quickly.  Fans of the meme/comic series might find Polandball: Can Into Space more interesting, but for the general public, I don’t think there is enough here to hold their attention.

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