Road To Ballhalla
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Release Date: 2 August 2018
Price: $14.99 / £13.49
Reviewed by Josh Brant
Road to Ballhalla, from developer tinyBuild, is an addictive puzzler that you'll love to play, but will also have you letting some obscenities slip from your tongue as well. This is not the first type of game to let players control an independently moving sphere, but probably does it better than anyone else.
The goal in Road to Ballhalla is simple: you roll, as balls usually do. You go through challenges to reach the pinnacle of enlightenment, namely Ballhalla. The gameplay is very much like a typical marble game, rolling around to avoid obstacles and reach the exit in as quick a time as possible.
Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’…
There's also basic puzzles to be solved, ranging from simple timed affairs to more complex challenges that require a lot of thought before attempting. Throughout the levels you will also see little yellow orbs that you can collect to unlock fancy aesthetics and more ball styles.
Each of Road to Ballhalla's 20 plus levels offer a good amount of variety with each having their own theme and twists, as well as adding new mechanics. In addition to the main game mode, you can also play the Rush Trials time trial mode which features online leaderboards, adding a little extra incentive to go back and perfect your runs.
One of the skills you possess is the ability to boost which allows you to get around the map quicker and sometimes avoid obstacles. But be careful, for if you boost over certain traps they will quite literally make your ball explode.
I Am SpartBalla!
One of the biggest features of the game is its humour, and it’s filled with dry/deadpan comedy, similar to the comedic stylings of The Stanley Parable. Within the levels there’s different writing that appears on the floors to help guide you through the level, but oftentimes it’s either mocking you or trying to trick you into killing yourself. Sometimes the actual layout of the level itself will mock you as well. It’s these little tidbits of humor throughout Road to Ballhalla that really make the game.
Graphically, it's a very pretty game to look at. There's a sleek, futuristic style of bright colours and metallic matte environments that’s almost reminiscent of TRON. The traps are clearly visible and are actually colour coded depending on what they do. For example, the blue traps will kill you immediately if you touch them, whereas red traps do damage over time, and purple ones move through the level with the music. Getting to grips with this clever colour co-ordination will help you make a successful run.
Speaking of music, the sheer quality of it - and the way it ties into the gameplay - is one of the game's biggest highlights. The soundtrack, composed by Nicholas Singer, features unique electronic tracks designed to complement each level. It isn’t just background to the gameplay, but a key feature in it, with progression essentially rhythm based. Traps will also react to the music, either activating with the beat or moving around with it.
Pretty much nothing is left without some sort of musical involvement, even the orbs you pick up to unlock style items have an associated musical cue, perfectly in tune with the overarching soundtrack.
Some of the levels themselves incorporate this by having the entire level based on the song, such as having invincibility on certain beats or hiccoughing and bouncing your ball all across the map in time with the tune. By the time you reach the final level, you'll need all your skills as a player, as well as an impeccable sense of rhythm in order reach the goal.
There is a difficulty boost near the end that could be frustrating for some players, and whilst there are little white orbs to collect that serve as checkpoints, they do occasionally feel a little sparse in their placement.
Overall, Road To Ballhalla is a clever ball-rolling puzzler that takes the best aspects of rhythm gameplay and wraps it up into an immensely satisfying experience. All of this is complemented by a fantastic sense of humour. It's another indie gem on the Switch that may end a little too quickly, but will undoubtedly have you coming back for more.
Pros & Cons
+ Clever level design
+ Great music
+ Fun rhythm based, ball-rolling gameplay
+ Fantastic humour
- Sudden difficulty spikes
- Not much post-game content