Indie developer Teotl Studios debut game gives puzzle loving gamers exactly what they have been asking for. Based on a mod for Unreal Tournament 3, The Ball is an action-packed puzzle game that provides an endless amount of replay value.
The adventure mode only takes six hours to complete, but that’s because it’s difficult to stop playing and you'll be tempted to finish it in one long sitting. I’m confident in saying this game can be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys puzzles, mummies or smashing monkeys with balls.
What starts off as a simple story of an archeologist falling into a hole while excavating in Mexico, unravels into a interesting story about the advancement of the human race. The level of detail provided to you also depends on how you play the game. For those who enjoy looking at every nook in games like Zelda, you will more than likely find some hidden secrets in the plot. As the game has not yet been released, I’ll spare you the spoilers for now.
As the sort of Indiana Jones type that you are, rather than waiting around for your comrades to save you from the cave you explore deeper into the mountain. The first thing you find aside from a discarded shovel and fedora (sadly you can’t acquire these) is an item called the ancient weapon. Part hammer and part gravity beam, this device allows you to manipulate your soon-to-be-companion for the game.
The Ball of course, is the next object found, located behind an ancient wooden door. An ancient panel conveniently nearby explains that it’s an ancient object of power. Throughout the rest of the game you use The Ball in many ways; from powering an ancient chariot, killing angry monkeys to opening doors and attracting a collection of mines to blow up some mummies.
Most of the game consists of problem solving by moving The Ball to open doors, remove pests from a designated area or surpassing a worm that exceeds six stories in size. Essentially, these puzzles heavily rely on the use of physics, which is one of the easiest things to poorly implement in a game. For instance in several old school games a tiny pebble could get in the way of you skipping numerous levels, but Teotl Studios had this down perfectly. There were hardly any issues of this nature to be found in the beta version of the game.
The physics in this game seem to be mostly logic-based. If you think you can climb to a ledge by getting on The Ball, it’s likely you were meant to. There are no strange ledges that prevent you from exploring new areas.
The design and functionality of each level is fantastic. While the game may not boast the strongest graphics, as you breeze through hallways, the details are apparent when you get to open areas.
The learning curve of The Ball is well-balanced as the first few levels are relatively easy, replacing the need for a prerequisite tutorial before jumping into the actual game. As puzzles progressively become more difficult, you may notice an ancient system of symbols located in key areas that may assist you with conquering the most difficult of tasks. Towards the end of the game you really need to pay attention to these, or you will simply be stuck running in circles. After you feel you have figured out the symbols, in come the mummies, fire breathing turtles and undead gorillas.
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The other game mode of The Ball is called "Survival" and it consists of you, The Ball and swarms of enemies based on four different levels. The objective is to kill nine waves of enemies. If it’s any indication on how difficult this mode is to complete, or how much I suck, I have yet to conquer all nine waves of Survival. You can choose from rolling the ball into enemies, dropping explosives, using mines, causing a large warm to eat them, drowning them, setting them on fire, compressing them with traps, grinding them with saws, setting them on fire and using some sort of gravitational spike bomb. I probably missed a few, but you get the point. There are a lot of ways to destroy your foes.
The only minor issues prevalent in The Ball reside in the game’s logic. When you use the gravitational pull of the ancient weapon to attract the ball towards you and then turn it off, you would expect to be knocked back or harmed. Instead the ball simply bounces off you, which I found to be kind of strange. Additionally there is a slight annoyance with the visibility of The Ball. When you are directly next to it, it becomes transparent, but remains solid from far away unless you are holding down a button. It becomes slightly annoying to hold down an additional button while moving.
Aside from those small gameplay elements, The Ball is one of the more refreshing indie games I’ve played. It has several similarities to Portal in the control scheme and puzzles, but adds in entertaining action that reminds me of Painkiller. If three developers can create such a fantastic game like The Ball, Teotle Studios will have a bright future in the game industry.
The Ball releases on October 26, 2010 for the reasonable price of $19.99. Are you going to check out The Ball?