Those in my age range of (mumble) may remember an old puzzle
game featuring a real metal ball and a real wooden board with holes
in it. Younger folks may remember Nintendo’s Super Monkey Ball.
Neverball is, basically, Super Monkey Ball without any monkeys. Use
the mouse to tilt a playing field, causing a ball to roll down the
incline. With careful control, you can scoop up coins, bounce over
pits, even (at higher challenge levels) zoom around tubes in a
gravity-defying spree. Or, if you’re like me, you can send your
ball careening over barricades and into the void so fast it
probably leaps out of the game and ends up coming to rest somewhere
around my 2004 tax archives.
In short, Neverball requires patience, finesse, timing, and
dexterity, none of which I possess. Nonetheless, I can appreciate
the quality of gameplay–and the sheer amount of it–that you get
for free. Released under the GPL (Or, as Microsoft calls it, the
Communist Manifesto), Neverball exists solely due to voluntary
efforts by programmers and level builders, and, unlike far too many
“free” products, this one has the quality you’d expect from a
commercial game. I encountered no bugs or interface oddities, and
gameplay was slick, smooth, and hyper-responsive. You get over a
hundred levels, ranging from “Easy” (I could do them in under five
tries) to “Challenging” (unless you are a 13-year-old with reflexes
like a weasel on speed, you will tear your hair out).
But that’s not all! Included free in the installer is
“Neverputt”, a golf version of the same game concept–you must
carefully putt your ball into the hole, again dealing with
ever-more-complex levels as you progress. Neverputt is a game which
does not require reflexes, just careful estimation of force and
angles–a lot easier for old fogeys like me.
Free. Fun. Challenging. Two professional-quality games in one
package. Why are you still reading this? Click “Download.”