Remember the 90s? Remember the years when Ace of Base told us they saw a sign and the Spice Girls told us how to be their lover and then Haddaway had to ask what love even was? Those were good times. Those days were great. And amidst all of this greatness, we really got a lot of great games too. I mean, we got Street Fighter on the home consoles. We got the onset of 3D gaming as technology got better and better.
We also got Sonic 3D Blast.
And we also got Ballz.
So it really wasn’t all good.
Suffice to say I have the knives out ready for this one! Be prepared.
So. Ballz. What a load of shit.
I don’t really think Accolade are going to like me too much after this because I’m fairly sure they’d have hated me after my Bubsy review. But either way, let’s introduce the atrocious Ballz, shall we?
To be honest, I could probably end this review there and go off and have some dinner because there’s really nothing much to say about this other than the fact it’s a turgid, foul, abominably awful piece of code that should never have truly existed.
But on the plus side, at least it showed us what a decent 3D fighting game ought to have been: THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THIS. AND CONSIDERING WE HAVE BATTLE ARENA TOSHINDEN 3 AND 4, THIS IS SAYING AN AWFUL LOT. I’m saying it now, Toshinden 3 and 4: this game is worse than you.
But not much else is.
So don’t applaud too much.
Ballz is basically a failed experiment in trying to create a fighting game with a difference. There are a couple of things going in its favour, obviously. It’s the first attempt at a pseudo-3D fighting game on the Mega Drive/SNES-ear consoles, it’s at least trying to be quirky and there is a story of sorts.
And now it’s back to stabbing the game in the face.
Because it’s shit.
I say there’s a story. Let’s be honest: there really isn’t much beyond “DEFEAT EVERYONE” but the main boss character, the Jester, does grant your wish at the end of the game. Your wish automatically being to play as the game’s bosses.
*STAB* I WANTED WORLD PEACE AND A WORLD WITHOUT VIOLENCE YOU HORRENDOUS FILING CABINET FULL OF BITCH POWDER.
Hypocrisy, I know. I don’t know what to tell you.
8 characters await you – or not because you won’t play this game: it’s shit.
Each of these are made up of balls to create their character models. At first glance it is both terrifying and intriguing. At second glance, it is just plain ugly. Essentially, everything is actually 2D and there’s no actual 3D modelling involved at all. Characters move around the stage using the D-pad, jump using the C-button – which is tantamount to treason in a fighting game – and attack using the A and B buttons as well.
Character-wise, we have a caveman, a sumo wrestler, a clown, a rhino, a monkey, a ballerina, a bodybuilder and a superhero. They each have names but you won’t fucking care so there’s no point in me telling you; think yourself lucky. Each of them acts in different ways in that some are speedier than others, some launch themselves across the screen easily, some jump higher than others and some hit harder. Everyone has a combination of these skills so of course the ballerina can move quickly and jump high but not hit hard because she’s a girl and that trope is OLD. LE SIGH.
And yes… you did read it right earlier: there’s a rhino AND a monkey in this game. It is not as shocking as you think it is. Given that they’re all made up of spheres, the character models are appallingly basic but they do at least look they’re supposed to. You can tell that it’s a rhino, you can tell it’s a clown and you can just about tell that it’s a caveman, given he carries a club around with him and bumbles around like he’s just discovered how to use his own feet.
The game’s final control involves pressing all three buttons. Do so and your character taunts the opponent, which leaves yourself open to attack from the opponent and should you get hit after taunting your opponent, you will lose a HELL of a lot of health. The same happens if you get in there first, of course… and it ends up being the only way of defeating the game’s first mid-boss (an ostrich… surprisingly not kidding but I think you could have worked that out, surely). As he digs his head under the ground to replenish his health, all you do is taunt him a couple of times, throw something at him and he EXPLODES in about ten seconds.
And the game pretty much TELLS you this in the background. There are screens littering the background that say random shit all the time, some of it pointless and useless, the rest of it involves hints that help you out with each boss. These include TAUNT THE OSTRICH, RIDE THE DINO and BEG FOR MERCY.
The last one shows up when your health is lower than 4 balls lon-
OK. FUCK THIS. I HAVE TO CHALLENGE THAT ALREADY.
LOOK. GUYS. I get it. You called the game Ballz. Ha ha. Cos they’re made up of balls. Ha ha. Smart. But seriously. The life bars being made up of balls too is actually really shit. The game screen itself is ugly enough at the best of times but let’s be clear here: having a life bar in a game would help SO MUCH MORE IF YOU COULD FUCKING WELL SEE IT.
Making it out of SMALL balls, most of which represent a colour of each character, is dreadful design. It’s too hard to see and to be honest, the game feels less like a fighting game when the game isn’t really set up properly. I’ve mentioned how some fighting games don’t work well because they mess with the formula that Street Fighter 2 started with life bars that recede towards the middle, where the timer usually is (FYI, THERE IS A TIMER BUT YOU’RE ONLY TOLD WHEN THERE’S 60, 30 AND 10 SECONDS LEFT AND IT’S ALSO FUCKING SILLY). Instead, we get the blank, bland, fuzzy-looking graphics above with no flair, no presentation… just… balls. EVERYWHERE.
It’s as if they want us to know that this game is made up of Bal- OHHHHHHHHHHH. NICE JOKE, GUYS. HA HA HA HA HA.
Unsurprisingly, the reason this game is so shit is actually not because it looks a bit pap. It is, in fact, because it handles like a sloth in treacle who was then given acid and WHOA that is not an image I really want to be throwing out there.
One on one fighting games are NOT super hard to mess up but there’s definitely something missing from Ballz in that it handles really bizarrely and obscenely poorly. The controls are responsive enough but you don’t get any feeling from them. They throw punches and kicks and occasionally they do connect and occasionally they don’t. Occasionally, you can win whole fights but by pressing forwards and kick and mashing the kick button repeatedly until he explodes into an almighty explosion of balls. It’s either way too easy or WAY too hard. You get your opponent into a state of flux and they’ll be an open target ready to wallop away at them without any skill. And because you know this tactic work, the game ends up going into battles of trying to wail on your opponent with the A or B button. Stop doing it and the game just tells you you to ‘go fuck yourself’ because you don’t even care if you win or lose at this point.
The game sometimes feels random as to how much damage is caused. Taunts lower all the skill and excitement because if you stood at the side of the screen and taunted three or four times before unleashing a tiny punch and BLOWING THEM TO SMITHEREENS because GAMING LOGIC.
Because why not?
And it’s fucking terrible.
Graphically, as mentioned, it’s bland and murky. It actually looks dreadful because it’s not even proper 3D. It’s this pseudo-3D that doesn’t even look right. It looks like the developers were TRYING to be a mixture of simple and clever but actually ended up creating neither. Attacks look silly and are animated quite poorly in fact. There feels as though there are missing frames of animation all over the place to keep most of it going at a fairly quick pace. It actually doesn’t work though. Walking across to your opponent is very slow. The superhero struts across slowly, the bodybuilder is slow, the caveman is slow… essentially, everyone apart from the ballerina and possibly the monkey, are slow characters because for some reason, they just are. You’d have thought the superhero character would have been quick and strong but he is NEITHER. He’s weak, full of annoying swagger and his main skills are yelling ‘OUCH’ and jumping REALLY high.
WELL WHOOP-DE-FUCKIN- DOO. WHO GIVES A FUCK?
And even though the developers did attempt some characterisation, the fact that everything is made of balls and none of them have faces… lessens the impact. The superhero has this silly stoic, superhero-style voice, the ballerina eeks and squeaks and orgasms her way through the game, the rhino makes incomprehensible noises that don’t even SOUND like a rhino, and even though you get a creepy jester laugh from the game’s main boss, it all feels like too little too late.
As for the action, it’s so frustratingly badly-developed that it’s difficult to quite get a handle on what’s actually going on. Projectile-style attacks don’t hit very often because character can just move right out of the way by pressing up or down. You will always face your opponent, however, which is something at least, but you could end up blocking them or they could block you because the character doesn’t fucking move. It gives off the impression it is with the screens rolling around the arena sides, but let’s be really fair: this game is seriously flawed and unfair and it deserves to be ripped apart in the way that I’m doing it.
Moves are random, the gameplay feels a mixture of off, clunky, unfair and unbalanced, and it’s too difficult to see what’s going on pretty much most of the time.
At the end of the battle, your character can perform a sort of finishing move whereby you outright destroy your character by taking the lasts shreds of their health off. Each character does something different, such as throwing them into the sky and letting them explode upon landing, dropping them from the sky like a REAL superhero would do, or everyone’s favourite: SITTING ON THEIR HEAD AND FARTING.
I have no words.
Given that it WAS still the era of the Mortal Kombat clone at this point, Ballz had to throw in a silly finishing move at the end but they really… look… silly. They feel as though they happen all too randomly and of course your opponents will ALWAYS perform them when you only have four balls of health left. By this point, you can beg for mercy to regain some health back… or you could always keep your distance and projectile the shit out of them.
Or you could do even better and just switch the fucking thing off, rip out the cartridge, snap it in half and then tell the game it’s given your Mega Drive some sort of disease – DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME OR MY SON/DAUGHTER AGAIN.