Every once in a while, I pick up a game that I remember hearing about weeks or months prior. I vaguely recall the premise, maybe a CG trailer or a glimpse of gameplay. Then, when it’s released, I read reviews or play a demo if one is available and consider adding it to my collection.
Bang-On Balls: Chronicleswas not one of those games. But that’s not a bad thing, trust me. Knowing nothing about this title helped me enjoy my hours and hours of gameplay even more. It’s a game that is so chock-full of content that it’ll be tough to distill my experience into a simple review. But here we go. Oh, and one more thing: forgive me (or don’t), but there will likely be a few intentional and unintentional puns happening throughout.
Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’
What exactly is Bang-On Balls: Chronicles? I’m glad you asked because for the first hour of this game, I was asking myself the same question. It’s an oddball of a platformer. You start as a simple bouncy ball, one that you may find in a schoolyard. You are likely made of thicker, durable rubber that could be kicked or thrown depending on the childhood game of choice.
But in Bang-On Balls, you’re the star of the show! After a brief tutorial of controls, you enter a studio lot playing on the classic Hollywood lot aesthetic of the 50s and 60s. Here’s where you jump into several slightly less accurate representations of historical events that you’ll smash to pieces as your wacky and customizable ball.
In Bang-On Balls, Hilarity and Chaos Ensues
Each setting is an open hub world where you’re given a handful of simple tasks: destroy A, find B, and defeat C. There are slight changes throughout the game, but that’s the basic setup. It sounds simple, but getting this done is far more challenging and takes quite some time.
Each region is filled with enemies and small puzzles. These ideas have been seen before, but how you approach them makes the game what it is. The open-world aspect of Bang-On Balls lends itself to the fun of it all. You can tackle all or most of the main objectives in any order while finding what constantly felt like an endless amount of unlockables and secrets. The rewards are wild and hilarious, like the rest of the game.
Rolling, bouncing, crashing, and smashing through each stage is fun. There is a double jump, ground smash, and dash forward. Sounds easy enough, and it is, but not long into the game, you’re unlocking items like a Thor-like hammer that allows you to wield lightning or a shield that will send enemies bouncing off the walls and terrain. These are great times and can be swapped in and out on the fly, no matter what stage or scenario you find yourself in.
This also translates over to the look of your character. Because there is just so much to find and uncover in Bang-On Balls, there is a lot of experimentation and customization at your disposal. I had a great time messing around with the countless combinations of silliness.
Despite the fun at play here, I found some content overwhelming and repetitive. Some stages and tasks take too long and become tiring. In the first stage alone, I bounced, dashed, and crashed through buildings and enemies for over an hour. Understandably, it’s a good problem to have. Too little content doesn’t feel good, but too much occasionally makes me exhausted.
The combat is a bit repetitive as well. Especially on some of the boss fights that end each “production.” I found a pattern in each giant enemy and exploited it repeatedly for 5-10 minutes. What I was given at the end of the fight was rewarding, but at a certain point, some of these battles deflated my enjoyment of the game.
Thankfully, a lot of this can be minimized if you play with others. Bang-On Balls allows you to connect with another three destructive players at almost any time. The chaos blows up, and so does the fun. I spent most of my time with the game solo, but the online play was easy to use and added some enjoyment to many repetitive aspects.
Bang-On Balls brings a lot to the table. If the days of Donkey Kong 64 and collectathons are waiting to be unlocked in your nostalgia bank, this might be the perfect game for you. Especially for its lower price tag, Bang-On Balls: Chronicles gives players much to do.
It looks great, has a fantastic sense of humour, and the gameplay works incredibly well most of the time. This could be a surprise hit that I hope sees some long-term success because there are many ideas to bounce off of after this solid opening.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]