Kevin Ng’s Impossible Road is extremely difficult, making it perhaps the most challenging game I’ve played since I dabbled with Flappy Bird back during the height of that game’s popularity.
But unlike the not very fun, poorly balanced game that is Flappy Bird (it also arguably rips off art from the Super Mario Bros. franchise), throughout the dozen hours I’ve played Impossible Road during my morning and evening commute, I’ve never felt cheated by its challenging and expertly balanced gameplay.
When I fall off the track in Impossible Road it isn’t the fault of poor game design. It’s because I messed up and didn’t read the course properly. This is a game that’s all about reaction and forward thinking, ensuring you always know where Impossible Road’s constantly winding ”Impossible Road” is going to take you next.
The basic premise of the game is simple – an aspect I feel is key to any great mobile gaming experience – players are tasked with navigating a shiny white ball down a randomly generated, constantly changing path.
This might sound simple, and to a certain extent it is, but the first few times most people play Impossible Road they’ll likely be unable to make it passed the road’s first corner. It’s important to note that there’s a steep learning curve to Impossible Road and that this could turn a significant number of people off the game.
In order to be successful in Impossible Road, the player needs to gain an understanding of the ball’s unique physics. Sometimes when the sphere comes into a corner it’s rolling exceedingly fast. This means you need to under steer a small amount in order to remain on the track, banking the sphere higher on a corner, coming out at the apex of the turn.
Doing this a single time is a difficult enough task, but the real challenge in Impossible Road stems from keeping the ball on the track for as long as possible, forcing the player to repeatedly under steer and over steer to prevent the sphere from plummeting off the course into the void.
Getting the hang of Impossible Road’s physics only happens through trial and error, so if you’re the type of player who becomes frustrated easily, this certainly is a game you should avoid. Impossible Road is the type of game you repeatedly pull out for a few minutes on the subway to kill time. It took me hours of short play sessions to finally grasp how to keep the ball on the track.
In terms of gameplay, I found that short, controlled left or right bursts are more effective than pressing the touchscreen for prolonged periods of time. Short touches resulted in me having more control over the sphere, but other players will likely discover their own control techniques in Impossible Road.
What makes Impossible Road different from other similar mobile titles is falling off the track doesn’t mean your session is over. Clever players will find a way to navigate their ball back onto the surface of the game’s winding path as the sphere plummets through white space.
You’re given approximately five to six seconds to find a way back to the track by twisting and turning the direction the ball is headed. If you aren’t able to accomplish this, the screen slowly fades to black and the run is over.
The trick is that in order for your score to increase the ball needs to pass through a checkpoint (small lines periodically strewn along the course). While this is sometimes easy to accomplish, I often found myself bouncing along the track, shifting from short moments on the path, to bounding through white nothingness, and missing almost every checkpoint in the process.
Landing back on the track is easy, but keeping the sphere there is significantly more challenging. The momentum the ball has built up from its free fall through nothingness carries over when you finally land on the course again, leading to tense situations that require odd maneuvers and quick thinking.
In one session, I managed to keep the ball alive for an astounding five minutes, but only ended with a pitiful score of ten because wasn’t able to pass through an additional checkpoint, which would have added up all the other checkpoints I passed while bouncing the sphere around frantically.
Similar to many of my favourite mobile games (Alto’s Adventure for example), Impossible Road’s art direction is simplistic and stunning. Visually the game consists of a ball, the blue, simplistic track, checkpoints, and finally, white nothingness. In short, Impossible Road’s graphics are simple and elegant.
While Impossible Road likely isn’t for those who don’t enjoy a challenge, if you invest enough time to understand the game’s surprisingly comprehensive physics system, you’ll discover one of the Google Play Store’s hidden gems.