This week’s featured free game is for disabled persons. “I’m not disabled,” you may say. Maybe not, but let’s see how healthy your thumb is after you play One Switch Ballz until the wee hours of the morning.
One Switch is, in their own words, “a resource of fun ideas and ‘assistive technology’ aimed at moderate to severely learning/physically-disabled people.” This means that their library of games, free to download for the PC, require only one button or input to operate. I find it a fascinating experiment in game design, the severe limitation of being forced to hack down player input to one simple button press; the results are varied, but often quite compelling. Mechanics often focus on rapid button presses or timing in order to meet the one-button requirement, many times automating other aspects of the game a player would usually control, such as lateral movement.
If you try one of these games out, make it One Switch Ballz, a forced movement platformer in which the player is tasked with bouncing a perpetually rolling ball to the finish line, avoiding dead ends and gaps in the floor. Paths through the stage branch out frequently, making level memorization play a part. Timing is also key, as an early or late bounce over a gap can throw off the path of the ball and send you plummeting to your doom. My college roommates and I invested hours in the challenge presented by OSB, fighting for the coveted high score. It is a game design success because it makes its one mechanic engaging and perfectly challenging for a gamer, and it’s worth a look even just to see how the disabled experience our favorite pasttime. Check it out, along with other One Switch projects, at the links below.