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Nutshell Review: The Ball

Reviewer: Cliff Davenport









For a game that originally began as a mod for Unreal Tournament III, The Ball is a pleasant little distraction from the usual fare of first-person action titles.  I’m reticent to even call it a first-person shooter, even though it’s won awards as such, as it’s much more of a puzzle-solving game, and players receive exactly one weapon throughout the game.  This weapon, which looks and functions like an Aztec-skinned rip of Half Life 2’s gravity gun, provides players with a means of interacting with the eponymous Ball, which remains their primary tool throughout the game.  However, both Ball and control gun are disappointingly bereft of any ominous names.  For shame, Tripwire.   


As a 1940’s paleontologist working a presumably remote dig site in the deserts of Mexico, The Ball quite literally drops players into a winding cave system lined with cryptic, ancient ruins. Quickly discovering The Ball and its control device, something draws the player ever deeper into a dangerous labyrinth of trap-laden, zombie-infested ruins.  Is it an insatiable curiosity, ancient mind control, or just a rail-roaded plot? I don’t know, it’s never really explained, but the puzzles players are led to are cleverly designed, visually appealing, and genuinely entertaining to solve, so a flimsy narrative is somewhat forgivable.  













I will, however, just leave this early-game image here, and let

you call it.  And yes, your gut reaction is probably dead on.


Hearkening to the addictive, puzzle-solving gameplay of Portal, The Ball was actually released just prior to Portal 2’s debut, and the influences are genuine and very much intended, even going so far as including a cross-over stage in The Ball’s challenge levels.  Trouble is, with just one means of solving The Ball’s puzzles, they do get a bit stale and predictable after a few levels.  Different environments allow The Ball to perform many more functions than simply rolling around like something out of Indiana Jones’ nightmares, but most of these functions are short-lived, and don’t feel like their true potential was fully explored, especially regarding the layering of multiple special functions at once.


 Combat is another of the game’s shortcomings, as it largely consists of just  repeatedly blasting and retracting The Ball back and forth like some skull-embossed yo-yo from hell.  Boss battles and blinged-out Aztec zombie waves alike (Did I mention there are lots of zombies?) suffer from this repetitious bore, which is quite a shame, considering that one of those bosses happens to be a giant, zombified King Kong.  No, I am not kidding.

  

At the end of the day, The Ball is a fun little niche title, and to its credit, it never really feels like it’s trying to do more than it can.  What it sets out to do, it accomplishes, and does it well.  It may only last players a day or two, but for just ten bucks on Steam at the time of this writing, I’d say those are days well spent.  



Rating: 5.2


Visuals: 5

Audio: 4

Controls & Mechanics: 6

Atmosphere & Experience: 5

Entertainment Value: 6



















“Hey.  That’s a nice ball you got there, boy.”

  Consoles: PC

  Developer: Teotl Studios

  Publisher: Tripwire Interactive

  Release Date (U.S.):  Oct 26, 2010

  Release Date (U.K.):  Oct 26, 2010

  Release Date (JP):  Oct 26, 2010


Final Verdict:


5.2

Last Level Press © Copyright Cliff Davenport  Est. 2013.  Links | Legal Notices

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