The Ball is an Indie First-Person Action/Adventure/Puzzler where you play an archaeologist who has fallen down a hole, finds a massive Ball and decides to play with it. Let’s face it: we’ve been dying for another ball-based puzzle game since Marble Madness.
You pick up a device that looks like a Portal Gun but with skulls! It’s actually a device that can attract or repel The Ball: Magnet or Hammer! The Hammer can also be used to knock enemies away (but not kill them), shunt massive blocks around or hit buttons. The Magnet only attracts the Ball, but that’s pretty handy when it goes rolling off God knows where and you can’t ask the neighbour to throw it back.
Usually it’s the story that draws me into a game, but in this case I couldn’t care two pins about it. Every time the Tablet of Exposition appeared and conveniently translated itself I was bored and wanted to skip. It may have been something to do with the monotone voice that read it out. To be honest I didn’t feel The Ball really needed a story and would have done better to hold it’s tongue, therefore creating more mystery. Sometimes less is more.
However, the real nitty-gritty of this game is puzzle-solving and crushing Zombies with your massive Ball! Yup – roll your Ball at enemies and they will kersplat! The Ball can be furthur weaponized to shoot spikes, lay mines, be super-hot or electrified. Some enemies require these upgrades to kill them, but be warned, you can also do damage to yourself. Some sections – and perhaps the most challenging – are Combat-Puzzlers. Here you have to solve a puzzle whilst being chased by monsters; in act some can’t be killed unless you solve the puzzle.
Most puzzles revolve around getting The Ball onto a button with a ball-shaped symbol on, while you get yourself on a button with a man-shaped symbol. There are places you can get to that The Ball can’t and vice-versa, for example The Ball will sink while you can swim. You can use the ball to smash through walls, knock things down, or even lash it to certain objects to drag them. There’s a fun section where The Ball emits an anti-grav field enabling you to make giant leaps! There are a few devices it plugs into such as trains and cars.
Overall it is a simple yet versatile system providing a variety of interesting challenges. I actually found controlling The Ball easier than controlling my guy! Some sections are platformer-like, requiring you to successfully jump from platform to platform. Well, this guy can’t jump for toffee! He also has invisible legs meaning it can be difficult to know how close to the edge of something you are.
The graphics are nice. The environment does a good job at creating the illusion of an ancient technological city. I liked that you leave footprints in the dust (despite your invisible legs). Exploration is only somewhat rewarding since it looks like you can get to areas you can’t due to invisible barriers and the ‘secrets’ unlock boring monologues.
I found the ‘Survival Mode’ quite a lot more fun than I expected, as it is a lot more challenging than the Storyline, pitting you against onslaught after onslaught of creatures whilst you run around crushing them with The Ball and setting off traps. It doesn’t stand up to the likes of Portal and could have done better with more focus, but overall The Ball is a solid and original puzzle game that keeps you on your toes. If you like puzzle games it should be in your library.