The Ball [Review]

Teotl Studios' brand new unique puzzle experience. Check out the review here!

The Ball - Screenshot

Everything starts with a dream.  Teotl Studios had made an Unreal Tournament mod which stayed just a mod for a while.  Then Epic Megagames released the Unreal Development Kit for the Make Something Unreal contest and Teotl Studios mod became a full game.  Since that contest, it has been the one creation that is promoted for swaying potential users of the Unreal Development Kit and has won numerous awards.  Tripwire Interactive (known for Killing Floor) wanted to give Teotl Studios something much more; they wanted Teotl Studios’ project shine in the limelight.  From Teotl Studios and presented to you courtesy of Tripwire Entertainment, they bring you “The Ball”.

The plot has you visiting ancient ruins in Mexico as an archaeologist.  On exploring part of the ruins you fall into a crevice and land in a cavern.  What ends up from a fall into a cavern becomes much more.  You find that there was evidence of an ancient civilization along with two items that are significant to your journey; the ancient weapon and The Ball.  The ancient weapon and The Ball seem to be the keys to unraveling the secrets behind the ruins.  Do you have the tact and cunning to uncover the secrets?  Before I get into game play discussions, let me say that the key to this game is The Ball.  It is your friend and your weapon; use your head and everything will fall into place.

The Ball is a first person puzzle game that is physics based.  As odd as this may sound, the game rewards common sense and basic knowledge of elementary school physics.  The only thing that isn’t quite “physics” related is that The Ball will never crush you as a player, but I presume that is due to the matter that as holder of the ancient weapon you are unharmed by The Ball.  The ancient weapon in combination with The Ball allows you 2 modes of control for The Ball. First, using the left mouse button you can fire The Ball like a pinball plunger.  Second, using the right mouse buttons allows you to turn the ancient weapon into a tractor beam to pull The Ball towards you.  Another good game mechanic is that when The Ball is in front of you, the glyph covered surface turns clear allowing you to see through The Ball if you’re trying to roll it somewhere.

The Ball - Screenshot

The Ball provides you with a health meter in case you are hurt by environmental factors or later factors; it regenerates when you clear a major portion of a level.  The game is pretty fair for the most part and so is the learning curve.  The entry puzzles in Pehua (the first chambers) orient you to the basic uses of The Ball for basic puzzles and uses of the ancient weapon on different elements of puzzle solving.  When you get to Oztoc, this is where the game removes you from the training wheel equipped bike and puts you on a full blown motorcycle for critical thinking and puzzle skills.  This is where the meat and potatoes of problem solving gets tested to prepare you for some of the challenges that lay in the future for you.  The “fun” (subjective) part is it keeps getting better and harder.  For puzzle gamers and/or physics geeks, this should be a good thing to look forward to.

In the midsts of the puzzle solving, the story element is well blended in.  The portions are narrated tastefully and also sometimes involve decoding the Aztec-looking hieroglyphs.  For those who like to do some exploring and want to find more about the secrets of the ancient civilization’s interaction with humans, there are hidden statue pieces of the deities in each section of chambers.  Finding these pieces will give you a little more insight on their interaction.  The cinematics that are blended in with some of the story elements and puzzle solving give you a sense of scale to some of the levels.  The subtle music also helps in providing the environment of the game and story.  It provides almost like a meditation chamber like experience, save for two elements…  Minor enemies and bosses.

The Ball - Screenshot

The later elements that ends up being introduced are enemies and bosses.  For the most part, you will encounter a lot of mummies as slight interference for some puzzle solving portions.  Remember my little disclaimer from earlier?  This is why it is important.  The Ball is a crushing weapon in addition to your primary tool for solving some of the large puzzles.  Your other weapon is the ancient weapon and its two functions.  The tractor beam function can be used as a means to crush the mummies in a tactic that uses you as bait and letting The Ball return to you and crush them.

In addition to that, The Ball can also be used defensively as a shield to defend you from some of the later mummies and enemies that do use projectiles when you have the tractor beam mode active.  The plunger function can be used to fire The Ball to crush, stun, and knock over mummies.  In some levels you can knock mummies into level elements that can kill them.  This portion puts your intelligence as a puzzle gamer to the test.  Unfortunately, sometimes mummies and enemies show up at the worst possible time.  On death, whatever of the puzzles you have solved are saved but the enemies stay where they were.  So if you do die, you will need quick wits about yourself to make sure you don’t end up dead again.

For the person who loved Valve’s Portal and those craving a tasteful challenge, The Ball will provide a good exercise for the mind.  The price of the game is rather fair at $19.99 for close to 6 – 8 hours of entertainment.  For those who want more, the game also has a set of challenge missions for additional replay value.  Teotl Studios has created a great game and it’s great to see Tripwire Interactive help publish The Ball to a larger audience.  Check out the gallery below if you want to see more screens from the game.

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[Images provided by Teotl Studios]

Long Diep
Long Diep
Long Diep

MASH Veteran

Long is an classic game fanatic who has a fond love of arcade games. He is a fan of fighting games and racing simulations and loves playing them with good friends. His true love is with Japanese curtain fire, "bullet hell" shooters. He is a gamer who believes that sometimes the best gaming gear can make the difference between a better experience in a game to increased game play skills. Even though he likes his unique games, he does enjoy FPS games, RPG's, and various other games. Long has a so

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