What’s the opposite of a precision platformer? An ‘imprecise platformer’ would be the logical answer, but that doesn’t seem the correct terminology, almost suggesting a game’s controls are in some way loose. Whatever the correct answer may be, it describes Bang-On Balls perfectly.
This 3D platformer is set in vast and vivid open worlds, where our spherical (and fully customisable) star can travel great distances at speed and bounce through the air to reach new heights effortlessly. Any obstacle in your path – including some locked doors – can usually be circumvented by smashing through a nearby wall or scaling a building and leaping from below. Very few areas are off limits, allowing for a surprising amount of exploration. The world design caters to this too, with a large variety of indoor and outdoor locations, many of which house secret areas.
Our bouncy buddy is out to stop a pumped-up moustached villain who’s causing terror in several movie genre inspired worlds. It’s like Oscar on the Amiga CD32 all over again. Or Gex, if you prefer.
A movie studio acts as a hub, leading to sprawling worlds based around vikings, pirates, the ‘50s space race, and a kaiju battle spread over different eras of Japanese history. Once in these worlds, a short list of objectives must be completed before summoning the boss, and there are plenty of collectables to find too – giving the incentive to return. Combat is a straightforward case of either ramming or slamming enemies, and a generous amount of health is provided – it’s clear the developers wanted this to be a frustration free experience that everyone can jump in and play.
Mission objectives vary from destroying viking long boats to assembling a rocket step-by-step before battling aliens in space. The pirate and kaiju battle worlds play similarly to one another, requiring you to visit far-flung locations on the map and battle four mini-bosses to gain key items – although the pirate battle has a bigger focus on seafaring…via an inflatable log. Even though the worlds stretch for miles, they’re full of distractions. This is especially true for the Japanese world with its bustling cities, pictureseque temples, rural areas, and more. There’s always a lot to take in.
Mission objectives aren’t too time-consuming – I was able to dash around all four worlds and beat the final boss in just a few hours. However, blitzing through the campaign isn’t the way Bang-On Balls is meant to be played. See, these sprawling locations are playgrounds of sorts, where three other online players can join in and cause carnage. There’s a long list of accessories to find, with some such as the self-explanatory jetpack giving new abilities, which increases the potential for tomfoolery. Every single achievement is related to farting on something, or in a certain location, so chances are you’re going to be looking out for these top tooting spots too.
In addition to the four worlds, there are two extra hub locations to unlock – both requiring a lot of sparkly shards to access. The first is an arcade with a bunch of multiplayer mini-games, including an online football game, while the other location is a zoo. The Japanese world also has karaoke and pachinko mini-games – with the latter of course involving our hero bouncing around inside the machine. Local split screen can be accessed at any time, while each world has online terminals – resembling ethernet cables emerging from the ground – where fellow players can be invited.
All of this carnage, chaos, and stupidity – this is a very silly game, if that wasn’t clear already – is backed by surprisingly lavish visuals, especially for such a straightforward and carefree experience. The worlds sprawl far into the distance, and there are all manner of particle and elemental effects. It’s fair to say the developers are very well-versed with Unreal Engine 4. The only glitches encountered were objects occasionally floating in mid-air after going on a rampage.
Bang-On Balls: Chronicles isn’t going to test your gaming mettle – the bosses go down easily, the objectives are pretty straightforward, and it’s a simple case of dashing and bouncing your way from one location to the next. It’s brainless, but the best kind – a game very eager to dazzle and please, designed to be played with others while you both chuckle at its absurdity. It’s comparable to something like Goat Simulator, in that the experience is greatly improved depending on who you play with. There are no microtransactions either, and a free Wild West world is being added at a later date.
If you’re looking for a breather, or something to play with younger family members with a concept easy to grasp, this is ideal. Lunacy has a new home. Just remember to leave your brain at the door.
Exit Plan Games’ Bang-On Balls: Chronicles hits consoles on Oct 5th. It first launched on PC in 2021.