Have you ever played games like Skylanders or some random licensed game where the entire objective was mindlessly hitting things and running around a world until you completed some super clear objective? I, for one, thought those types of games died with the concept of licensed games being anything other than mobile games, but Bang On Balls: Chronicles has revived this style in a high-quality fashion.
I’ll be real here: if you’re looking for a brawler with depth, serious themes, and a beautiful style, go anywhere else. This is a silly, simplistic game that’s fun on its own merits, and it does show that this game has spent years in Early Access getting itself to tip-top shape, but that shape is a bit two-dimensional.
In this review, I’ll overview everything this simplistic little game offers. While some may cringe at the thought of playing hours of an open-world beat-em-up with minimal combat depth, I think that if you keep an open mind, try and enjoy it for what it is, and don’t expect this game to be Spider-Man, then you’ll enjoy the rest of IGC’s Bang On Balls: Chronicles Review.
Banging Against the Wall
To put it bluntly, Bang on Balls is so straightforward it can sometimes feel mind-numbing. It’s very much a game where you have to turn your brain off, press buttons, and repeat for hours, which isn’t a hard sell for fans of the Warriors games, but if you’ve already been put off from this game because of it being essentially an open-world button-masher, I can’t blame you.
For me, though, depth isn’t everything, so this loop of rollin’ around a big world themed after Vikings or every era of Japan, bashing into every object I see, finding collectibles that only really serve to make my character look way sillier, doing enjoyable boss fights, and getting a ton of orbs that are weirdly satisfying to suck up, all felt super fun and fulfilling, if only tolerable a few hours at a time.
Multiplayer is also a really fun addition, which my girlfriend and I rolled into and had a blast together. It was super fun running around and throwing ourselves into things, playing with items that had special effects like sending enemies to heaven, and just having a good time taking on bosses together. Multiplayer enhances this ten-fold.
Overall, all your time in Bang on Balls will be spent exploring worlds based on historical periods, breaking things, running into enemies, equipping fun items, and just messing about in the hub world when it’s all done. There are a few distractions, like arcade games, but this game keeps it simple. Now, I may be a brainless individual, but this is fun. Extra-depth might be more fun, but sometimes you don’t wanna think too hard.
Getting the Ball Rolling
Each world in Bang-On Balls is pretty straightforward and serves to give you a new gimmick to play out; Namely, the Viking world playing it straight, the Space Race world making you choose between two sides that have some minor gameplay and significant aesthetic differences, the Kraken’s Lost Coins having you swim across an ocean to ships and massive islands, and a time-traveling adventure through past and future Japan.
Of these, I particularly loved the Kraken’s world because surfing across a massive ocean is fun, and because the gigantic islands I could sail across the high seas to find were exciting and varied; it was kind of like the Pirates of the Caribbean world in Kingdom Hearts 3, just with fewer crabs. Focusing on unique gameplay variety rather than difficulty that would no doubt get tiring is much appreciated. On the other hand, I could appreciate it more if it all looked impressive.
Some Rough Edges
The visuals of Bang-On Balls, as opposed to the gameplay, range from serviceable to genuinely unpleasant. It feels like a mix of great aesthetic ideas and terrible execution with poorly modeled surfaces. A low-poly style can look charming, but you must commit to it entirely or cover it with great art direction. Bang-On Balls does some secret third thing, and I hate it.
It doesn’t make sense for a game about balls to have half the models look like a poorly peeled potato, yet they do. There’s very little commitment to an art style; it looks like an unreal engine game with some okay and terrible models. There are hints of a style, though, namely a comic-styled onomatopoeia appearing whenever you hit something or splatting onto the screen when you die.
If they’d committed to a robust and comic-book art style to show the webcomic roots of where these balls with country flags on them came from, I’d be singing a different tune. As it stands, though, I had to turn off the bloom to even tolerate this game, and it could use a ton of work and a re-direct on the entire style. This game might seem like an unpolished mess, but trust me, we’ll see some great stuff from it soon.
The soundtrack for Bang-On Balls hits it out of the park, from the studio hub sounding like the high-energy synth you’d hear on a runway to the incredibly strings-heavy country and Nordic fusion of the Viking world and the threatening yet hopeful track that scores your adventures faring the seven seas. It’s all genuinely incredible, really hitting the nail on being like a movie score.
I love all of these tracks, and they’re all grade-A, well-composed, and super-refined pieces of work. I have no complaints here; the music even changes depending on location. For example, I went into a small village in the pirate world, and the music changed to a Spanish-influenced bouncy track full of twangy instruments and lovely castanets. It’s simply stellar; sometimes, I like it when things are simple.
A Ball-Point Penned Story
However, the story of Bang-On Balls is so straightforward I only need a paragraph. There is a big hotshot movie executive; you’re a small-time actor and chase him down through some weird Mario 64-type movie set portals, beat him to knock him down a peg, and repeat until the end. It’s simple, it’s okay, it’s all it needs to be; just don’t expect this to be the next Last of Us, K?
I guess I could talk about the story told in the portals? But most of them are just exaggerated real life with a bunch of slapstick comedy, and this aint history class. It’s a cool way for parents to play this multiplayer with their kids, to teach them about something like the Space Race, but the game doesn’t do that on its own and doesn’t go beyond its straightforward concept.
Rolling Back the Clock
Replaying Bang-On Balls is sometimes a requirement, as the multiplayer makes the estranged decision to omit the studio hub from its roster of playable locations, instead forcing all involved players to have beaten each level individually, their friends joining if they wish. This is dumb, and it means that the best way to play multiplayer is to run through the entire game and THEN hop on your friend’s session.
Aside from that tangent, if you’re not in it for fun times with friends, replaying the worlds is fun; trying to find new collectibles, speedrunning, or taking new routes in worlds like the Space Race are all fun distractions. Plus, rolling through the older worlds with your new arsenal of items can be fun, especially since some things are locked until you have the jetpack.
I’ll admit, Bang-On Balls is unique, especially in indie. I’ve never really seen open worlds and beat-em-ups merged in a way like this before, so I’ll have to do my best here and provide you with a few options for similar styles of games.
- Castle Crashers is another multiplayer beat-em-up, this one focusing more on casual and silly gameplay as well, but is more similar to games like Ninja Turtles that are side-scrolling.
- It Takes Two is a multiplayer-focused 3D platformer that mainly focuses on level gimmicks instead of difficulty; however, it’s quite a bit more puzzle-focused and less actiony, so go for this if you want a slower-paced game with a friend.
- Hat in Time is a straight-up 3D platforming collectathon with minimal platforming. However, I’m recommending it due to its Online Party, which lets you jump into games with tons of friends simultaneously, and there are combat-focused mods out there.
To put it bluntly, this game would be great if it just strived to be a little bit more. A bit more depth to the gameplay beyond the straightforward items you can find, a more refined visual style that sticks more to the vague comic idea that it only tries to push a few times, and you’d have an excellent game on your hands, but it’s just not there.
Still, I did have a ton of fun with this game, namely, playing multiplayer was a fun time, and though my girlfriend wasn’t the one reviewing the game with an obligation to play it, she still wanted to continue rolling through it with me. That says something about how bang-on this game managed to be; it just could’ve hit a bullseye with a bit more practice.
Pros and Cons
- Very satisfying gameplay that’s easy to understand.
- Multiplayer is an enjoyable addition.
- All of the collectibles are fun to find and use.
- Visual style that doesn’t commit to anything and comes off as low effort.
- The gameplay is too simplistic, getting mind-numbing with longer play sessions.
- Multiplayer functions strangely, forcing someone to play through the entire game on their own.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is Bang-On Balls: Chronicles?
Answer: It is an open-world beat-em-up where you run around in historical worlds, find collectibles, and beat up enemies.
Question: What platforms are Bang-On Balls: Chronicles on?
Answer: On October 5th, It will be officially released on Steam, Epic Games Store, Good Old Games, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Question: Is Bang-On Balls: Chronicles worth the price?
Answer: For me, yes, as it contains 10+ hours of content, which doesn’t even include the time you’d spend replaying in multiplayer or hunting for every collectible. There is a ton to do in this game.
I played Bang-On Balls for 10 hours on Steam, and most of that was on my PC; however, it does play great on Steam Deck. I got through every world, including the lovely new time-traveling Japan world, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time.
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