by Diego Beltrami
When life gives you a giant ball I guess you just kinda roll with it. This philosophy has worked wonders for games like Katamari and it should work with a First Person physics puzzle game with some combat.
This game which curiously it takes place in some Aztec Ruins where you run around with a giant ball that you can pull and push with the help of some magic weapon thingy. The ball is your main way of interacting with the environment and with its help you have to traverse the levels towards I just don’t know what.
I didn’t actually get far into the game, just a couple levels into it, so I haven’t made much sense of the story nor why is the protagonist moving forward. Curiosity? Because it’s the only way the game is going to advance? A mystery. What’s no mystery is why I didn’t play much more of it, and it’s mostly because I’ve found two main issues with the game.
First, having a main element of the puzzle solving mechanic being a giant ball that’s hard to control, annoyingly goes around and it’s cumbersome to direct is a serious problem. Specially if we take into account that we have combat later on, and that your only weapon is waving said giant ball around. It’s fun in a way, but for a few minutes only, then it’s just annoying.
And then the puzzles themselves aren’t well integrated into the environment. They feel too much like puzzle rooms, which they are, and have to be if this is going to be a puzzle game. Problem is that this takes place in some Aztec ruins. There is no logic that ties how these rooms work to the puzzle mechanic. Why the hell did those Aztec build this rooms like these, it makes no sense. How did they navigate it. Did they go with a giant ball everywhere swimming and jumping when they went to get something to eat? Who builds places like these?
When Portal started this crazy new wave of first person puzzlers it was smart enough to frame the puzzle rooms into experiments to make them coherent with the environment. It made sense to have the player navigate complex mazes, jumping into switches and the like because that’s what they were designed to be in the game universe, those were puzzle rooms in the game narrative. That was a brilliant move, and one that pretty much became the standard for this kind of game because how well it suits them. Now, I’m not saying it’s the only solution, and for god’s sake I hope more people try to break away from it. There is only so much you can do with a science environment before it gets boring and repetitive, but The Ball’s approach leaves a lot to be desired. It’s certainly pretty, but incongruous. Maybe latter in the game there is a reasonable explanation for all of this but I don’t feel like spending more time with it. For now it just seems like a puzzles with Aztec lipstick. It makes it seem like the setting is pretty much random.
A giant metal ball is a cumbersome thing, pretty much like this game. I can see what they were trying to do, but in the end I got bored and it gives me no reason to go back to it. I guess I just dropped the ball.