Onward to Ballhalla! Attempt feats of wit, strategy, speed, luck, and… selectively ignoring the in-game text taunting you around every corner.
Road to Ballhalla has rhythm-based arcade gameplay reminiscent of other sphere-focused games like Monkey Ball and Marble Madness, but with a touch of the mirth and creative energy seen in recent classics like Portal and The Stanley Parable. It’s replete with cheesy jokes and bad puns sure to leave your eyes rolling (pun intended). Even the header text on the ball customization screen, reading “Every roll playing game needs some character customization,” lets you know what you’re in for. Multiple times, I caught myself laughing from the writing, often when I failed and knew I could do better. That’s good, cathartic game humor.
The Road to Ballhalla might not be as straightforward as it seems, but that’s no fault of the game mechanics. Rolling the ball towards its goal is intuitive, and the integrated tutorial is effective and welcoming and introduces players to this world’s logic. This logic may just mean players need to shift their frame of reference a dozen times or so to progress.
Be aware that the world you have to work with might be upside down, involve timed lasers, or require avoiding your new best friend Miss Marble. After you move beyond the first few stages, it seems like each level brings a new approach to the basic goal of “getting the ball into the hole.” Simple floor panels become increasingly complicated, instantly shifting the game from one that feels static to one that makes you question why you were ever lulled into complacency. The shifts are dynamic, with gameplay elements that change at the perfect pace and keep you wondering what twists will come around the next corner. These unexpected surprises are the reason completing each stage is so satisfying. Of course, you won’t feel satisfied for long once you realize that you don’t know what’ll show up next.
From the slick opening screen to the interactive hub menu, the game is true throughout to the future-sport design aesthetic. Neon grids, dark backgrounds, and pulsing lights that match up perfectly with the Nicholas Singer penned game score, add up to fit this approach. No visual element is vestigial—even if something looks like it might be there for no reason, it ends up playing into a well-planned joke or trick. The overall presentation matches the playful nature of the game so well that you may forget if you’re playing the game, or if the game is playing you.
Even after ascending to Ballhalla, there’s plenty of gameplay to bring a player back for more. Even if you get three stars on a speed run, you may still be 150th on the leaderboard, so you’ll savor the replays if you’re the type to enjoy finding clever ways to shave seconds off of your paths to the end of a level. Also, if you’re feeling that confident, you can always use the easy Twitch integration to show off your skills, or to show off the pained faces you’ll inevitably make as you forget about an obstacle standing between your ball and the end.
Road to Ballhalla fits into that category of games that can be both the “I’ve got 15 minutes, I want to play something” type of game, to the “I know it’s 1:00 AM and I have work at 8:00 AM, but I just want to beat this level” kind of game. Enjoy the groan-worthy sphere jokes, hypnotic music, colorful design, and just keep the ball rolling.
Review copy supplied
Tested on PC