I played the Flash game “Factory Balls” by Bart Bonte in my web browser. This game is for players of any age who are looking for a casual puzzle game. Its colorful graphics and seemingly endless levels are reminiscent of other physics-based Flash games like “Bloons” or “Run 3” that target kids. If anything, the target audience may be on the younger side (10-18 years old).
Factory Balls welcome screen; lots of emojis and a playful tone.
Factory Balls comes down to figuring out in which order to layer objects over a ball and paint to achieve a specific pattern. There’s no time constraint or limitation on the number of attempts. The core mechanics are simple – all you can do is add or remove objects from the ball and paint. However, these mechanics lead to more complex dynamics as the user solves the puzzle: layering objects, covering earlier paint, and carefully ordering each move after the previous one. Part of the fun (and frustration) of Factory Balls is that you can only reason a few steps ahead rather than planning out all of your moves. It’s important that the user has unlimited tries and time, because this alleviates the stress of “messing up” and ruining your chances of success later on. In contrast to Chess, another game in which most players can only plan a few moves into the future, Factory Balls does not allow a misstep to cost a player the game. It’s this safe, casual nature of Factory Balls from which a key type of fun emerges: submission. The designers succeed in creating this type of fun because the game’s mechanics support mindless, long term, intermittent play; you have as many tries as you like, you can never run out of time, and you can pick up and leave off easily without worrying about losing progress or forgetting information.
Additionally, the mechanics of this game mimic real-world physics (someone even replicated it IRL) and this means that spatial intuition and logic are important in solving each puzzle. A young child, for example, would have a hard time solving these puzzles if they could not conceptualize what would happen if they painted the ball while some object obstructed part of its surface. For this reason, challenge emerges as another core aesthetic.
Because the puzzle’s mechanics are limited to a handful of options, this game is easy to pick up and feels low-stakes. However, the simple set of mechanics means that after a few levels, the puzzles start to feel repetitive. The designers attempt to mitigate this by by introducing new ways to paint, for example, with grass and flowers. However, these new textures do not change the dynamics of how the user interactions with them – all the same mechanics and dynamics from before apply. I would fix this by introducing new mechanics alongside these new features, perhaps creating some element of timing or orientation, so that new dynamics emerged as users progressed between levels.
Using a hat and belt in level 7 / In level 12, you “paint” with grass and flowers.
On a more technical note, this game is incredibly visual, but navigating between levels gives no indication of what pattern each level entails. It was frustrating to navigate between levels only by number, because I was usually looking for a specific pattern and didn’t remember the level’s number. I’d fix this by displaying the final pattern along with the level number on this navigation screen.
Navigation screen shows level number, no other visual cues.
Overall, I’d say that Factory Balls is a success as far as providing causal gamers with a low-stakes pastime. However, this game becomes repetitive and boring after a few rounds, which contradicts the endless, mindless nature of submission games.