At this time, Ramp Champ is almost fabled. The bombardment of side comments on twitter, site redesigns, and teasers elevated Ramp Champ to a point of lore even before it was released last night. Let me tell you, the hype is real. This is the best game on the iPhone. Developed by the Iconfactory and DS Media Labs, Ramp Champ is the retro-classic boardwalk game of Skee-Ball: rolling a ball off of a ramp to hit targets. Except it’s in your pocket. It’s also the Iconfactory’s first application exclusive to the iPhone platform. Both Frenzic and Twitterrific are available on the Mac.
In Ramp Champ, you roll a ball up a variety of ramps by flicking and swiping, trying to hit a variety of targets. Each target has a set point value, and these points are turned into tickets, which in turn can purchase virtual trinkets and prizes. Each level’s targets may be different. Some move, others may disappear, and yet more may be replaced by a new series of targets.
This game keeps you playing. The points, goals, tickets, stages, music, prizes, trophies, and the ability to buy more of all of that keeps Ramp Champ interesting. In addition, the creators of the game are dropping hints over twitter. Apparently something happens when you redeem all the prizes in a certain area, when you get all gold trophies, etc. These kinds of things keep the game really, really interesting.
But even better than the addictive nature of the gameplay is how this game looks. Ramp Champ is, quite simply, a dazzling graphical orgasm. Each level’s theme is it’s own, yet stays true to the retro carnival nature of the game. For example, the Ninja Attack level (available for purchase) screams David Lanham, but it’s quirkiness and universal use of the ramp/arcade gear enables the whole game to look as if it were designed by a single person.
Yet still better than the graphical flair is the wondrous soundtrack. Everything has a sound associated with it. The menu system’s sounds range from crowd noise, classical music, and old carnival tunes. Each level’s sounds are different as well. For ‘Space Swarm,’ a futuristic Space Invaders level, the sound track is spare electronica with blips for each time you hit a target. But the lush sounds of this game are simply marvelous with good headphones. This is not a game where you will want to play your own music or even turn the sounds off. However, there isn’t an option to turn sound off, so you couldn’t even if you wanted to.
Ramp Champ also takes advantage of in-application purchases, so anybody can purchase add-on packs. Each add-on pack retails for $0.99 cents and features 2 new ramps, 18 new prizes, 6 more goals, and 2 new trophies. I have purchased both packs, and each is fantastic in its own right, although I’m a bit more partial to the ‘Adventure Pack’ rather than the challenge pack. The game comes with 4 levels: Clown Town, Breakwater Bay, Space Swarm, and the Icon Garden; so it’s not as if you must buy any add-on pack to start playing.
The lone issue that I’ve found with Ramp Champ is that a first generation iPod touch may not have enough oomph to run it properly, as it keeps crashing on my device roughly every 10 minutes. This was echoed by iPod touch Fans forum user GrooveMachine on twitter. However, the developers are certainly aware of this and are working on the problem.
Ramp Champ retails for $1.99 in the US App Store and works on all devices with firmware 3.0 and above. The Iconfactory and DS Media Labs have excellent support. They reply very quickly and try to help you with the issue. In addition, I’ve tried asking some of their employees over Twitter and they’ve been very responsive and helpful. You can purchase Ramp Champ on iTunes.
Presentation & Graphics [rating:5/5]. 5/5. The Iconfactory’s designers are the best.
Audio [rating:5/5]. 5/5. Every little blip of sound is polished.
Gameplay & Controls [rating:5/5]. 5/5. The controls are simple and intuitive.
Reuse Value [rating:5/5]. 5/5. Tickets, prizes, and trophies keep you coming back.
Value [rating:5/5] 5/5. Ramp Champ is fantastic for $1.99.
[rating:overall/5] 5/5. Ramp Champ is quite possibly the best game that I have ever played. It is the casual gaming experience of Up There, Sneezies, and Harbor Master taken to the next level. In fact, it’s the gaming experience Up There, Sneezies, and Harbor Master wish they had. Ramp Champ is an immersive, polished, gorgeous, and inventive twist on one of the oldest games ever: knock down that thing with a ball. And it is fabulous.
If you would like to look into the Iconfactory, DS Media Labs, and Ramp Champ any further (which I’m sure you are), check out their various websites with screenshots, videos, overviews, and much more.