Review | Bang-On Balls: Chronicles

Originally published at: Review | Bang-On Balls: Chronicles - XboxEra

Crude, rude, and sometimes prude paints the balls that star in Bang-On Balls: Chronicles, a 3D platforming adventure from developer Exit Plan and publisher Untold Tales. Besides its rivetting name, I was pulled into Bang-On Balls for its references to other major players in the platforming genre as well as as a promise for open world chaos and destruction. I love platformers, and I especially love games that feature heavy physics-based mechanics. I.E. Explosions. Even better, the idea of playing a cute round, spherical thingy with a country’s flag plastered onto it (there are many) was too good to pass up.

And what I ended up getting is a phenomenal sandbox title with so many things to do in the four massive maps it offers. There’s a ball of a time waiting, so let’s Bang On.

Interning is Priceless

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles starts us off with a dazed Bob, an intern at the world-famous Bang-On TV Studios. The game wastes no time chucking Bob right into the fray after its weird intro cutscene, placing us at the gates of the studio to figure out how to get past the waves of other balls trying to get in. Here, you’ll become familiar with Bang-On’s core gameplay mechanics as well as pick up a couple of customisation items to trick out Bob.

So for starters, our Bob walks, rolls, and can dash into baddies as well as using said dash for general platforming. You’ll be hitting the right trigger quite a bit as you zip and dash about. Bob naturally doesn’t have hands and cannot grasp platforms, but Bang-On’s levels don’t require any sory of perfect platforming so that’s not really a big deal. Bob challenges his adversaries by using that same dash to bonk them off course, into walls, and ultimately to a timely and tevelised death (it’s okay, they’re stage actors). Bob is easy to control and master—he features the right amount of weight, jumping feels solid, and his dash usually targets the right enemy or thingy you’re trying to hit.

And while you’re doing all of that, you can do it in style. Bang-On Balls has many, many world and state flags you can apply to Bob as well as hats, gear, weapons, tattoos, facial hairs, etcetera. You’ll unlock a bunch of these as you explore levels, some of these tools can even be helpful against certain baddies.

‘Beat Up Your Boss’ Day

You’ll take your fully decked-out Bob to four massive islands that you enter through giant telly screens. See, Bob runs into this big-shot Ballywood (something like that) star, a yellow and blue-striped ball that you later find out is his boss. Literally. You never quite understand what Bob’s beef is with his boss, as you go through through each of these worlds, completing multiple objectives to summon and beat him up. This boss at worst seemed to be haughty and maybe a bit stuck-up. Heck, Bob never shows animosity towards this guy at all. But beat up the boss we must and we shall carry out.

Now these levels are simply superb. As I mentioned, you’re given a set of tasks to complete to summon the final boss for the level and to move on to the next. The objects are fairly simple, usually involving collecting something or triggering a switch. But good luck getting to those in a timely manner because every world has so much to do and so much to offer. You’ll find yourself getting distracted by random boss fights or falling into levels within the level, completing puzzles and stages completely unrelated to the main story objectives. Maybe you’ll be clearing out Roman bathhouses, helping an idol group get their stage working, bonking toxic frogs with explosive barrels, and so much more.

And yes, each stage is based off of some point in history. The multi-flag balls aren’t just for show. You’ll visit the vikings, take on the space race, explore piracy and take out conquistadors, and visit multiple time periods in a Japan-themed world. Just about everything you see in these worlds is breakable and can explode. There are a good selection of enemy types to take on and they won’t like being batter-rammed multiple times as they will retaliate pretty quickly if you try to keep them stunned. But there are also a good selection of weapons that you can equip that can give you the upper hand, like a freeze ray or a hand cannon. You’ll need to find these of course, but if you’re like me you’ll get lost and find a bunch of things to work with not too long after the start.

Sometimes players will need to take on puzzles needing a second player. Playing cooperatively isn’t required, but I won’t lie it makes some parts of the game a lot more fun. For challenges that require a second player, you can summon a small orb from a nearby vending machine to hold down the fort for you. But if you want the best experience, playing with player two is a must in my eyes. The game supports online and local coop, the former I tried to use over the course of my playthrough through these random internet jacks I found but to no avail. I switched to the game’s local coop instead, playing with a sibling through the game’s later levels. Though sadly it’s a bit clunky to use and exposes one of the game’s bigger problems: its camera.

Bang-On Balls is a fairly demanding game. There’s a lot of physics involved, lots of actors in each level and you can see it through the game’s performance. It doesn’t run all too well, particularly when things go boom. This was on a Series X by the way, I can’t imagine how it runs on an Xbox One. Still, I can put up with middling performance (a few breaks to cool the headaches here and there) but visibility in this game can often be poor at times. Fights or even general mayhem will quickly build up particle effects and the game’s camera will do little to help as you get stuck in the more clausterphobic parts of the map.

Split screen mode doesn’t help as even the customisation menu doesn’t properly show your little ball in this mode, forcing the second player to act as the middleman. Starting splitscreen also doesn’t clone the camera controls properly. The second player must always adjust the camera’s settings when they start. Because lately I’ve noticed that games have been inverting their Y-axes like we’re back on the PSx. Lastly, the final cutscene was marred by different contrasts due to the split viewport. But ultimately, these issues do not make the game unplayable by any means, and I hope that these issues are ironed out in the future.

One Bang of a Time

As I roamed the game’s hub world and the four major stages, I think one of the game’s strongest suits outside of playable content is the attention to detail. There’s so much going on in each part of the map—whether it’s scientists being forced to work against their will, pirates sailing about in search of things to shoot at, or wars being fought as you bum-rush through it all. This game is incredibly charming and I loved seeing all these moving parts come together and making the world feel alive. There’s a bunch of easter eggs to catch and the achievements are simply lovely: you just gotta fart at the right place and the right time. Check it yourself.

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles is this simple yet ultimate combination of the right elements of sandbox platforming. It’s loads of fun, be it solo or cooperatively, and there’s plenty of unique objectives and challenges to tackle as well as solidly crafted boss fights. It’s a beautiful and large-scale sandbox that offers a banger of a time for everyone.∎