The middle of August is a critical time for soccer fans as the top leagues in the world are all beginning to kick off their new seasons. The optimism a new season brings after a long summer of transfers coming in and out (that is, unless you are a Tottenham Hotspur fan this offseason) flutters the heart; everyone claims they will win the league even if they are West Ham United fans. So why all this talk about soccer? Are we reviewing FIFA 19? Nope! We are discussing the Torched Hill developed Road To Ballhalla, of course! Originally released on Steam, tinyBuild has now published the game to all current gen consoles. Does the game gain momentum and speed off, or will it roll off a cliff?
The game can be simply described as a puzzle platformer where the player rolls a ball through twenty-four different courses to collect yellow orbs and respawn as few times as possible to collect a total of eight tokens each level. These tokens are used to advance to previously locked-off areas to give a nice feeling of progression, even if some of them seem a bit high and replaying levels forces the player to work towards both goals again and not just the missing one. As the player progresses though the game, the enemies evolve from moving squares and shapes to rolling and falling bigger balls called “warballs-” and beyond! Each commanding more attention than the last while the difficult progresses at a steady, if a bit quick, pace.
As previously mentioned, there are twenty-four levels in the game. They are split up into five worlds with five levels each plus the four bonus levels. While there is the inherent desire to collect every token coupled with the speed-running encouraging rush mode of each level, the game can come off as being very short and without much re-playability. One positive about the game play is the smooth, precise controls, except when the game starts changing the perspective and the controls seemingly also change at each corner the player takes from therein on those levels. While I love the perspective changing mechanism, the brain rewiring it takes and the fact it changes so often is a bit of a miss for me.
Then the story…well, there is no story. Just a series of written out statements as you progress through the levels that are equally attempting to be ‘punny’ and to troll the player. Personally, this was the best part of the game and why I enjoyed my short time with it so much. This even expanded into the “overworld” if you keep falling into a certain hole early on to continue a conversation that is seemingly for an achievement, but as we are reviewing the Nintendo Switch copy, there is no built-in system for achievements. Then there is the music, which is by far the most calming music I have heard for such a stressful game as this one can become.
In a game where the puns and trolling demands almost as much attention from the player as the gameplay itself, it is a bit surprising how the game is almost perfectly balanced. The main issues with Road To Ballhalla are the lack of playtime length and replayability, and how the prospective changing mechanism causes too much mental strain. These negatives really cause the game to miss being pushed over the edge from ‘good’ to ‘great.’ This is disappointing, as the game has everything else that it needs to make a lasting impact. Thus, we can highly recommend Road To Ballhalla but it is not a must have. However, we do hope that the game either sees a sequel, or the developers take what they learned from this game to create an even better game. (Ryan Williford, Gaming Editor)
Review copy provided by tinyBuild; Reviewed on the Nintendo Switch in handheld mode.