Skee-Ball Review (Switch) – “An Expensive Past-time”

Skee-Ball is an iconic game that has provided a vast amount of entertainment for over 100 years. Whether it be at the arcade, bowling alley, or carnival, this simple, yet addictive game has been a pivotal staple in entertainment. Naturally, there have been translations of this past-time put into a video game format over time. Developer Ocean Media has brought over the iconic game to the Nintendo Switch, offering people the opportunity to play Skee-Ball, both at the comfort of home and on-the-go. So how does Skee-Ball fare for Nintendo’s hybrid console?

If you’ve never played Skee-Ball before, the rules are simple. You roll a ball up a ramp and try to score the ball within the score holes. You get nine chances to score points, and then your final score will determine how many tickets you earn. That’s about it. Controls for Skee-Ball are as simple as it gets. You use the left analog stick to position the ball, the right analog stick to angle it, and holding the ZR button controls the power of the throw until you release it. When playing in handheld mode, the game even allows you to use the touch-screen by simply pressing in the left analog stick. It’s a nice touch (pun intended) for sure, as this does feel a bit better for immersion purposes. Unfortunately, there is no motion control support at all, which feels like wasted potential. The Joy-Cons’ motion controls are vastly improved from the Wiimotes back two generations ago, and implementing this control method would make the game much more intuitive.

For this Switch translation, Ocean Media has made tickets relevant to earn, and has included a Level Progression system as well. Based on how many tickets you earn, you will rank up. Each level will increase the number of tickets you acquire after each game. Tickets can be used to unlock the numerous game modes and cabinets to play on as well. There are seven cabinets total (three available at the start), and eight modes to keep things fresh. Aside from the traditional classic mode, there are also: Call Your Shot, Speed Ball, Horse, Hangman, Ring the Bell, Countdown, and Wipe Out.

Skee-Ball does have several issues that hold it back from being a worthy addition to your Switch library. First off, as mentioned earlier, the lack of motion controls as an option feels like a missed opportunity. Simulating motion controls for throwing the ball would make this more immersive, and easier to entice people to join-in for party sessions. Second is the progression system. Unlocking modes and cabinets will take an insane amount of time to unlock just one thing. Want a new mode? That will cost 750 tickets. You only get between 4-14 tickets a game, depending on how well you played. Sure, Skee-Ball rounds are quick, but this grind just feels like a complete chore. When grinding gets to that point, that’s never rewarding to the player. Granted each time you level up, you earn more tickets, but it all feels relative and doesn’t feel that much faster to earn tickets. Next are the physics. I noticed numerous times that when throwing the ball, and using the same power and angle, the results appeared to be different. What should’ve been perfectly aligned and powered throws provided inconsistent results when done so twice in a row. Sometimes the power of the throw seemed weaker on the second throw than the first, despite being the exact power level. Lastly, the price tag. The game is selling for $19.99. Yes, you read that correctly…$20 for Skee-Ball, for what feels like something that’s worth no more than $10 max (and even that’s stretching it). Sure there’s a good amount of content to unlock, but the unlocks take far too long to acquire. There are even random missions every couple of rounds to earn a bigger batch of tickets, which require either scoring a specific score or hitting a certain point target three times successfully within a round.

Visually, Skee-Ball gets the job done. It runs at a smooth framerate and the cabinets are appropriately detailed…but that’s about it. There are cabinets attached to your main cabinet you play on, but they’re just there for aesthetic purposes. The unfortunate part to this is that it just feels lifeless. In terms of audio, all the sound effects nail the feel of playing Skee-Ball and have authenticity. In terms of music though, there’s only a single song in the game that plays the entire time on repeat…and gets old fast. I found myself shutting the music off after 10 rounds or so. Thankfully, the sound effects do enough to make you forget about the absence of music.

Skee-Ball is a simple pickup-and-play game that’s ideal for the Switch. Unfortunately, the high price tag, inconsistent physics, and absurd progression system truly hold this game back. If the issues mentioned were rectified, and the price tag was lowered substantially, Skee-Ball would be an enjoyable game to play in short bursts. As it stands though, this is very difficult to recommend unless you’re the biggest Skee-Ball fan ever.

Overall Score: 3.5 out of 10 = Don’t Buy It!

A special thank you to Ocean Media for providing us a review copy for Skee-Ball! Review based on Switch version.

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