STAFF REVIEW of Bang-On Balls: Chronicles (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 29, 2023.
by Peggy Doyle

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles Box art I’m not even sure how to start talking about Bang-On Balls: Chronicles. It’s not really like anything I’ve played before. You play as a literal ball, named Bob, who rolls and bounces around a map divided into different times in history. This 3D platforming sandbox adventure game is the first game developed by Exit Plan Games, and they describe their game world as a “slightly inaccurate” telling of historical ideas. These come in the form of events like the Vikings or the Space Race, etc. I’m completely okay with this take on history. I’m not playing the game to learn anything or reshape the history I know. I just want to play the game and have some fun. I can confirm I got what I wanted from the game.

At the beginning of the game you are in the common area where you will customize Bob, and there are a lot of options to customize him the way you want. The loose story is that you are an intern for Bang-On Studios, and that’s pretty much all I got from the story to be honest. With no dialogue on the screen and very little in the way of dialogue presented to you, it’s just a roll around and find out type of situation. Each of the four areas you enter through a TV portal gives you a list of straight forward objectives you complete. Once you complete the objective you make your way to the boss level. Beat the boss and move on to the next level. The formula is simple and standard for a lot of games.

You will learn a few basic skills in this hub as well, including a dash and double jump that you will use to reach your objectives in the levels. Your dash is your main attack for enemies but is also used for breaking crates, walls, etc. Destruction is a main component of Bang-On Balls: Chronicles, and a large percentage of the world can be reduced to rubble. Destruction is used to collect currency and health, open up new pathways or even free trapped NPCs. Throughout the levels you will find many collectibles in the form of cosmetics you can equip. Some will even give you special abilities. There is a Thor-like lightning hammer and winged helmet that allows you to fly for a short spell, for example. You also collect film reels throughout the levels.

While completing side activities, you will fight many enemies in a variety of sizes. The larger the enemy, the more hits they take to defeat. Tiny enemies take one hit, medium ones take two, larger ones take three, etc. Each hit makes the enemy smaller and smaller.

Once you work through each area's objectives, you get to the boss battle for that area. This takes the form of a giant ball in the theme of the area you are in. They have a lot of health and the fight will take some time to complete. If you die you aren’t punished too harshly though, you’ll simply lose half of your accumulated currency and start again at the boss fight. If you make it back to the tombstone market before you die, you can collect that lost currency as well.

At certain points of the game you will come across puzzles that require you to have a player two. Have no fear, you can do this solo. There is a sort of ‘gumball machine’ nearby where you can hire a player two using some of your currency collected while rolling around. This is a fantastic feature for those who want to enjoy the solo gameplay.

The worlds are all drawn well, and each felt unique and full of character. You’ll travel through the time of Vikings, Japan, and even a fantastic pirate themed level. Taking your time to explore the attention to detail is wonderful. There is no dialogue or direct story, but you will see many actions playing out as you look around. Farmers are being threatened by soldiers, scientists are forced to work on experiments or building spacecraft, and there's so many details and mini stories abound. The other Bobs in each level are dressed to belong in their story being told, many sporting flags of the countries being represented in the historical reenactment. There is so much attention to detail in Bang-On Ball: Chronicles.

One downside to the game for me was that it took a long time to get around. I would have loved to have some fast travel options versus dashing over and over again to get around. It’s a small quality of life thing, but it would have been nice. The full game can be completed in around 5 hours, so it’s not terribly long, but I think you can definitely spend much more time than that, especially if trying to complete the full list of 26 achievements, all of which involve farting in a variety of scenarios. That should give you a great indication of the type of humour in the game as well.

While rolling around causing chaos is fun, I found it easy to get lost and confused trying to figure out how to complete some of the challenges. Also, with a lack of variety in the gameplay, I found it a bit repetitive after playing for an hour or two at a time. I am sure co-op would give me a little more excitement, but I didn’t try out any co-op play. The bigger issue for me while playing was the feeling of motion sickness I got from playing the game. There is constant motion, rolling and dashing is so many ways that I found myself feeling nauseous at times. There didn’t seem to be any setting to change to assist with this either, sadly.

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles is chaotic and a lot of fun. Although it’s the first game for Exit Plan games, you can tell that this is a group of developers with a lot of AAA game experience in their arsenal as the worlds are exceptional and so full of details. It’s an easy recommendation for me to make if you are looking for something to lose yourself in for a few hours at a time.

**Bang-On Balls: Chronicles was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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