Blast from the Past
HIGH Bombastically chaotic level design and exploration.
LOW The main story concludes sooner than I would have hoped.
WTF Where did the Bobs come from??
For folks missing the ’90s, where 3D-platformer collect-a-thons heavily populated home consoles, I bear good news — Bang On Balls: Chronicles is here, and it’s a joyous riot that recaptures the same spirit. With meticulously detailed, creative worlds, and bombastic chaos around every corner, Bang on Balls: Chronicles is a crazed romp of a 3D-platformer that is not to be missed.
Bang On Balls: Chronicles sees the player assume the role of one of the ‘Bobs’ – the universal name of the circular inhabitants that populate this world. Using a movie studio as a hub world, the player will enter movie sets that will come to life in the form of fully explorable 3D worlds. Within each of these worlds, the player will have a set of missions to complete, and along the way will collect a plethora of collectibles, do battle with colorfully-dressed Bobs, and break absolutely everything in their path.
Level design here is top notch. Each of the explorable worlds is huge, crammed with details, and exploding with life and personality. Ranging from a Viking invasion, a Cold War-inspired USA vs Russia race to the moon, a pirate world with tons of islands to explore, and a world depicting Japan in various points in history, each of these areas was an absolute delight.
The Bobs of Bang on Balls: Chronicles are absolutely ridiculous, and these rolling fellows who act as friend and foe alike are bursting with personality. They’re also are always dressed to correspond with whatever world they inhabit – so in the Viking invasion — you guessed it — they’re horned invaders. In the Japan level, they range from Samurai for the Feudal era to arcade owners for the area set in the ’90s. What’s most impressive about the Bobs is that they never feels extraneous – every enemy and NPC always has an activity they’re in the middle of when the player encounters them. Whether colluding with their fellow Russians to fix the rocket in the space level, to attacking a Spanish inquisition-style mansion in the Pirate world, the Bobs always have a purpose before the player stumbles across them, which only strengthens the already stellar world-building.
Within each level the player will have a set of missions such as destroying ships, defeating enemies, or collecting items. Once these goals have been completed, a boss will be unlocked to complete the world. However, there’s so much more to do besides simply beating each boss. Every level has an abundance of secret areas to uncover, fellow Bobs to free from cages, and items to collect. One of my favorite parts of Bang on Balls was an “ah ha!” moment in the Viking level when I came across secret cave cleverly tucked out of view that led to a water-filled underground cavern. It made me realize just how well-crafted Bang on Balls is.
Exploration and combat are rewarded with new outfits and weapons for Bob. There are TONS of customizability options, ranging from silly hats and jackets to epic helmets and shields. Though most of the outfits found in the overworld are purely aesthetic, items dropped by bosses are usually accompanied by special abilities, such as an electrically charged Thor-like hammer, a voodoo staff to summon undead monsters to fight by your side, and a lightsaber sword to unleash a powerful attack. My favorite was a hover backpack equipped with a ketchup and mustard blaster that allowed me to extend my jumps. It was great to unlock new weapons and experiment with which ones fit my playstyle – though I do wish a description of each weapon’s ability was provided.
Combat is predictably chaotic, if a bit redundant at times. Without the aid of items, Bob’s only base attacks are his dash and ground pound – the latter of which is not helpful against larger enemies. So, combat encounters usually divulge into repeatedly spamming the dash attack, a strategy that greatly tired out my right pointer finger. As the campaign progressed and I gained access to more items, my tactical library expanded a bit, but it always seemed like mashing the dash button was the most successful plan.
Though completionists will have their hands full collecting all the outfits and items, those not wanting to uncover every nook and cranny will likely finish in a few short hours. Bang on Ball’s most significant weakness is a short running time — although this is a good problem to have, as I simply wasn’t ready conclude my time with the Bobs. Luckily, the entire adventure can be experienced in local or online co-op with a group of friends, creating replay value and tons of gut-busting silliness with your collect-a-thon-loving friends.
Though Bang On Balls: Chronicles doesn’t reinvent the platforming or collect-a-thon genres, it vibrantly fills its world to brim with personality, secrets, and silliness, and the pure joy of discovery and chaos in Bang on Balls had me grinning ear-to-ear throughout its brief runtime. This is a must-play for fans missing the collect-a-thons of the ’90s, platforming enthusiasts, or anyone who wants to break stuff and have a great time doing it.
Score: 8.5 out of 10
Disclosures: This game is developed by Exit Plan Games, and published by Untold Tales and Couch Play Interactive. It is currently available on Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, and XBO/X.This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PC. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. Approximately 1 hour of play was dedicated to multiplayer.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Crude Humor and Fantasy Violence. No official description of the game is offered by the ESRB. Though I suppose the pun of all the characters being balls could be construed as “crude humor,” and the sheer chaos of destroying everything in the player’s path might be considered by some to be excessive, I think this game can be enjoyed by pre-teens as well.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There is no dialogue in this game. Text is limited to helping the player know their next objective, which cannot be altered and/or resized. Audio cues are not needed for progression, making this title fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game’s controls are remappable.