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A Ball of a Time - Road to Ballhalla Review

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Road to Ballhalla Logo

Roll a ball into a hole to win. Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite, as Road to Ballhalla showcases all the trials one little ball has to overcome in order to reach Ballhalla. Such a simple concept could’ve been a fairly standard and uninteresting affair, but Torched Hill have managed to embellish this game with so many nice little touches that it manages to stand out for itself. There is substance to its simplicity and it is not to be taken lightly.

Road to Ballhalla Screenshot

The core of Road to Ballhalla is so simple that it doesn’t take much to explain it. Rolling a ball is as simple as tilting the left stick, though you can use directional buttons if you so please. Holding down ZR gives you a little speed boost and that’s all you need for additional maneuverability. You roll your ball through each stage collecting orbs and dropping it off into a hole at the end of the level.

The complexity comes in the obstacles you have to navigate through to get your ball to the end of the stage. It starts off simple with damaging squares you must avoid and ramps up gradually with lasers, teleporters and other, even larger balls. The design of each stage is so tightly woven together as not to overwhelm the player too much as it gradually escalates the further you make your way through the game. Each obstacle is used in many creative ways that feels akin to the masters of navigational puzzle designs from Valve.

Road to Ballhalla Screenshot

If it was just a ball rolling game though, it would probably get rather dull, but the presentation manages to stand out with its own offbeat style. Minimal use of colour and an ambient soundtrack makes for a very chilled out experience, particularly with the audio tying into the activation of gameplay elements, thus syncing your actions to the music, further immersing yourself into the experience.

However, Ballhalla feels it necessary to spice things up with a dry cut sense of humour, with various messages dotted into the levels themselves offering quirky, deadpan commentary to the surroundings. These often lead to misdirection, leading the player astray, but you can’t help but laugh at your own misfortune for being daft enough to believe the game’s lies.

Despite all this, I can’t say the Switch port is all that perfect. There are significant loading times right from the get-go, with a 30 second wait just from booting up the game to reaching the pre-title logos. Each stage also has a long wait after being selected before being dropped off into the level.

It’s also very apparent that the game is running at a fairly low resolution, even in docked mode. It looks to be below 720p, which is very noticeable on a TV screen. It’s less so in portable mode, but still has visible aliasing. I can only assume that these setbacks were made to ensure optimal performance from the game, as everything performs extremely well otherwise.

Road to Ballhalla Screenshot

Road to Ballhalla is an extremely relaxed game on the surface, but the steadily raising tension from the puzzles and taunting from the commentary makes for a memorable time. It’s disheartening to see drops in resolution and lengthy load times, but they are preferable to sluggish controls and lowered frame rates so it was the right choice to maintain the gameplay that other platforms provide.


Pros:

  • Responsive controls
  • Solid performance
  • Tightly designed
  • Good sense of humour

Cons:

  • Tedious loading times
  • Low resolution

Verdict

Good

Good

Good games are simply that: good. They are generally fun to play but might be lacking in longevity, replay value, or presentation. These games might be good buying decisions for some people, but not for others. Some otherwise great games may fall into this category if they are priced unreasonably high. The devil is in the details.

 

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