Ball or marble gliding games have been popular ever since Marble Madness became a smash hit in the 1980’s. Many developers have tried to emulate the high-quality gameplay and mind engaging levels that marked the title. Almost as many have failed in their attempt to capture that classic feeling. Hence, I am always hopeful that the next one will be great but quietly pessimistic. Developer Torched Hill is the latest challenger with their Road to Ballhalla. The title is appropriate not only for the game itself but as a description of the journey brave developers have taken to contend with Marble Madness.
The Question of Innovation
Intellectual innovation is of undeniable importance in the video games industry. When a title has been made of such a high stature newcomers have to provide something new in order to better the title. Unfortunately, it seems like this is something that developers often do not realize or understand. Some developers have a belief that if they put a fresh coat of paint on top of the classic design that that will suffice. What ends up happening, however, is that gamers are delivered a product that disappoints. Hence why hugely popular games such as World of Warcraft have survived wave after wave of clones.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to realize the innovation in Road to Ballhalla. I’ve never come across a game that successfully incorporates rhythm-driven gameplay into a genre entry quite like this game does. The developers have done a marvelous job in this aspect and deserve recognition. In some ways, it reminds me of Crypt of the NecroDancer in that it combined one genre with rhythm gameplay effectively. It seems like it may have been a source of inspiration.
The developers further understood that in order to have a successful title with their ideology that they had to have a great soundtrack. It is for this very reason that they hired Nicholas Singer, an Emmy-nominated composer. The soundtrack is as vibrant and alive as the futuristic styled graphics which are also of an exceptional quality. In a very nice touch, the sound effects are adjusted to the music.
Consequently, I recommend that if you own a headset that you play with it on and the volume turned up. It will enable you to immerse yourself fully into the intended experience.
If you enjoy a healthy dose of humor in your video games then you’re in for a treat. The game is as full of puns and witticisms as it is balls. This is very good because it adds to the presentation value of the game dramatically. The constant flood of comedy gives the game a quirky and fun-filled personality that similar games just do not have. This, on top of the stellar gameplay, is one of the reasons why Road to Ballhalla is one of the best games in the genre that I have played.
The Construction of Gameplay
There are two basic modes of play within the game. First, there are the standard levels or ‘trials.’ When you complete a trial you are awarded tokens. The more tokens that you unlock the better you have performed. Performance is graded not only on how many lives you lost but on how many shiny orbs you managed to pick up on your journey throughout the trial. The less you die and the more you collect the better you grade. In order to progress to the next set of trials you must collect a certain number of tokens.
Secondly, once you have successfully completed each of the trials a timed mode unlocks. This mode incorporates the Steam leaderboard system enabling competitive players to set the fastest times on each of the levels that you have previously completed.
Is it Steamified?
As well as Steam leaderboard integration the game currently has a set of 18 Steam achievements. The developers are also working on Steam workshop capabilities. As a result, the only thing lacking – and not announced – are the addition of Steam trading cards.
As a big fan of Marble Madness, a game that I still return to from time to time, Road to Ballhalla had to be of outstanding quality to win me over. It was able to do so thanks to its excellent presentation and fun gameplay. Of course, the humor played a significant part in it too. I am almost ashamed to claim that the game had me slowing down at several points because I didn’t want to miss anything. Consequently, this is an easy recommendation.