July 8th, 2009 | By Taylor Hall
Review by Taylor
The premise of Ragdoll Cannon is simple, addictive, and accessible: you fire little ragdoll people all over physics-rich levels trying to get one of your stick people to touch a specially marked target. This puzzle game is not quite as easy as it sounds. Levels are filled with ramps, blocks, balls, swinging chains, teleporters, and plenty of other tricks that get in your way. These pieces of the environment, including the target object that you’re shooting for, are all simulated with a 2D physics system. You will need to understand and exploit this physics system in order to guide your cannon fodder friends to their goal.
Just like in real life, sometimes the physics in this game work for you, and sometimes they don’t. It’s pretty sweet when you use a rolling ball to catapult the target object into an area of the level where you have a clear shot, but catapult that same object a little too far and the target will fall into a bottomless pit. Too bad! You’ll have to start the level over. Figuring out the key to each level remains fun throughout the entire game. I felt a true sense of accomplishment after pretty much every level of Ragdoll Cannon, which is very key for a puzzle game.
It’s amazing how many interesting levels can be constructed from just a few simple parts, and Ragdoll Cannon explores each and every one. Some levels are based on carefully breaking down complicated structures in a way that leaves the target exposed. Others are twitch based, and perfect timing is required to sneak your ragdoll buddy past moving obstacles and into the level’s target.
There are 170 levels in this game, and the first time I sat down to play, I had completed fifty levels before I even realized it! So it’s a good thing there were still so many left to try. Once you’ve completed a level you’re able to replay it whenever you want, either just for fun or to improve on the number of cannon shots that you used to complete the level.
The graphics in Ragdoll Cannon are very unique, reminding me of something that I would have sketched out while bored in math class as a child. Everything in the game is stylized as doodles on graph paper, and this really works well and fits the energy of the game. Levels include simple ambient background action and environmental effects, all the way from tropical levels with birds flying by to arctic levels covered by falling snowflakes – all done in this ballpoint pen-on-graph paper style. Personally I really enjoyed the simplicity of the graphics, but anything this stylized will be a ‘love it or hate it’ situation for most people.
Speaking of love/hate relationships, I think that’s a fantastic way to describe my feelings on the tiny ragdoll people that you fire out of your cannon. There are times where I’m literally cheering the little guys on, begging them to just reach a little bit farther in order to grab a hold of the level’s target. At other times, my evil side comes out and I spend some time blasting the little guys all over the level, watching them bounce off of walls and into bottomless pits. I know we’re supposed to be on the same team, but all’s fair right?
The music is decent, but there’s a fairly limited selection. While playing, I found myself humming along, so I suppose that’s a good sign. But if you’re going to play this game for any length of time then you’ll definitely notice the repetition. Also, there are really only two sound effects in this game: the boom of the cannon, and the ding of completing a level – so those sounds get a bit old.
Other than the repetitive music, the only downside for Ragdoll Cannon is in the polish. There are no options available to play in fullscreen, or even to adjust game’s running resolution. What makes this worse is that the default game window is fairly tiny. There also seems to be a bug that causes the game’s performance to drop sharply after a decent amount of play; restarting seems to help this issue.
There’s a 20 level demo of Ragdoll Cannon available for free. To get the other 150 levels you need to shell out $20. If you like the demo, then you’ll love the full version. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, pick up and play, physics-based puzzle game – then I would highly recommend that you check out Ragdoll Cannon.