The Ball Review (PC)

TheBall

Released on Steam on November 5th by Teotl Studios, The Ball was anxiously waited upon by our editor here at WeDoGames. Waylaid by other work, he reluctantly allowed me to put this game through its paces. Whilst the game is downloading off Steam, I got nosing through the games information. For a game that wasn’t even on my radar, it had an interesting premise.

The year is 1940 and you play an archaeologist not unlike a certain whip wielding movie icon although maybe a little clumsier. Whilst working on a dig on top of a dormant volcano in Mexico, the floor gives way and you find yourself at the bottom of a cave. It appears that our intrepid hero isn’t really that popular with his co-workers as apparently their crane has also ‘broken down’ and would take a while to fly a new one in. Given the circumstance you do what another Stetson Fedora wearer would do and starts exploring his surroundings and soon finds ancient ruins hidden away beneath the volcano and an mysterious artifact - The Ball.

The game itself plays a lot like Portal. Using The Ball, you negotiate the environment solving the puzzles presented to you to allow yourself to progress further through the 8 vast levels provided in an effort to get out the volcano and find out more about your mystery of your spherical companion. You are not alone in this as you encounter some of the volcano’s inhabitants, and they are not happy to see you at all. The Ball can be maneuvered using a device picked up that allowed you to fire it away and pull The Ball towards you from a distance.

Graphically the game looks very pretty running at 1680 x 1050 on my PC with the game requiring a 2GHz processor to run with 2GB of ram recommended. These kind of spec’s are what you expect to see on recent games such as Fallout: New Vegas and F1 2010, so its was surprising to see them on a £14.99 title. The ruins are presently with decent textures throughout and The Ball is very detailed to the point that you can see the engravings on it. The sound however is a little bit of a let down with your character taking a leaf out of Fido from GTA3 or Gordon Freeman from Halflife by not talking to people. While not really needed when your exploring the tunnels on your own, its distracting when your colleagues call down to you and you don’t answer them. Another example of this is when you start moving The Ball around with the device. Its 1940 and you’ve stumbled upon some inhabitants that try attacking you making you defend yourself with a magically controlled ball and you have NOTHING to say about it. I don’t think a single person reading this would not have piped up with a ‘What The?’ or a ‘Holy Shit’ under the circumstances and its just feels wrong. That aside though,the sounds are pretty good. You can hear the steps you take and the lava bubbling around you as well as the wind up of your device. Its just the lack of the voice. It just feels wrong.

The Ball has a storyline that should take you around 8 hours to complete, and for the completionists amongst you, there are 30+ secrets stashed throughout the 8 levels for you to find. There are also Steam Achievements to gain and a survival mode to attempt which should keep you playing for a good amount of time. With that said, once you have completed the storyline, you may struggle to go through it again just to unlock the extras. For those who love the physical product, the UK publishers Iceberg Interactive are releasing a retail version which is said to feature exclusive content such as signed postcards and bonus CD soundtrack due for release on the 12th November.

Overall

In a month dominated by big name games such as Call Of Duty: Black Ops, Football Manager 2011 and Assassins Creed: Brotherhood, it would be easy to overlook a title such as this. However for just over little more than the cost of a DLC pack, you could get your hands on a bit of a hidden gem. Whilst it does have its flaws, they can be overlooked due to the shine and polish that the game has been given. People that loved Portal should feel at home here even if The Ball isn’t quite as fun as a Companion Cube.

Score: 81/100

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