There’s a huge variety of puzzle games on the Switch that all have their own unique styles and mechanics that enable them to present themselves as a unique, fresh take on the genre and it’s great. Nintendo’s wonderful handheld hybrid has allowed many indie games and puzzlers to find refuge within, allowing these games to find audiences they may have not otherwise. Road to Ballhalla is one of those games, and whilst it’s available elsewhere to say, once again, that it’s best on Switch is quite the understatement.
In Road to Ballhalla, you’re a ball. Your goal is to get to the end of the level without dying by rolling your way from one section to another. I mean, that’s the gist of Road to Ballhalla. It’s reminiscent of Ant Workshop’s terrific Binaries. It’s bastard hard but the fiendish puzzles make you come back for more, the ‘one more go’ effect is prominent in how long you’re going to spend with Ballhalla.
As the levels progress they naturally get more difficult and equally frustrating. That’s not the fault of the game but rather you as the player, only because you know you can beat these levels but dumb mistakes such as rolling the ball just a millisecond too far or boosting when you weren’t supposed to will render you catatonic as you tear your way through the early levels. The varying ‘enemies’ – lasers, red floor you can’t touch, giant balls intent on rolling you over – are introduced to the game gradually which is welcome.
When the aforementioned giant orange balls come into play you have to take all you’ve learned to avoid them, whilst tearing through a level that hasn’t got any walls. The ball feels weighty, so you feel like you have enough control, but it’s up to you to ensure you don’t tear it into a laser or into the infinite abyss should you go rolling off the side of the platforms.
Collectables are of the utmost importance in Ballhalla and this is where the trickiness rears its ugly head. There are gold pieces littered all over each level, with percentage in the bottom right corner counting up to 100 the more you collect. For the completionist in you it’s a smart mechanic to keep you coming back, though if you have the skills you can grab them all in a single run. Some a hidden well, others are in plain sight, the more you have the nerve to take on certain segments the more chance you’ll have of collecting them all.
You’ll be collecting tickets throughout for completing levels. There are eight available per level depending on how few retries you use and how many gold pieces you collect. The more tickets you earn will be used to unlock later stages. It’s not easy to get all eight on every level, encouraging even more replayability.
You’ll notice whilst you’re learning how to play Ballhalla that the movement of your obstacles are times to the beat of the music which you can hear, which gives you a helping hand in navigating your movement. If you have an ear for it you’ll be able to move far more naturally, rather than trying to simply guess what the system is. Rolling over red pads are timed along with purple blocks which move across the levels, so picking up the rhythm is crucial.
I mentioned the Ant Workshop puzzler Binaries at the top and you have to wonder if this game has been inspired by it at all. Binaries had text narration throughout, talking to you about the game and your movements in a very dry humour which was welcome, and rather softened the blow of dying repeatedly and screaming at the TV. Ballhalla shares this idea, with funny text popping up on each level either egging you on or letting you know where you’re going wrong. There’s a moment where the text will tell me if that ‘legend says’ if I go through two lasers I’ll discover a cheat code. So I did. I died, and didn’t get a cheat code. The following text was ‘THE LEGEND WAS WRONG’.
Yes, yes it was. I laughed and appreciated the fact the game just made me die for a joke. I like to think it’s taking the idea of a humourous sidekick talking to you throughout the game as an evolution of what Binaries did, rather than outright copying it. Others may see it differently, mind.
Road to Ballhalla then is a fun old time and whilst it isn’t going to blow you away in terms of original mechanics or gameplay, the smart and fiendish level designs, sense of humour and replay factors are enough for us to recommend it, especially if you’re going to want something to play on a journey. There’s enough here to keep your brain ticking over for a good while, and the sense of completion is hugely satisfying.
Give it a download.
Developer: Torched Hill
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from the publishers. For our full review policy please go here.