Bang-On Balls: Chronicles

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles

Plenty of familiarity doesn't stop this being fun.

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles

There aren’t that many games released nowadays that are done for the sheer hell of being ridiculous and fun.  Mostly the titles that hit the headlines are massive budget, gritty epics that want to be the only thing you sink your time and cash into; and whilst there are plenty of indie games borne out of love for the medium, it’s more often than not the serious narrative ones that float to the surface.  Sometimes though you really do just want a brightly coloured stream of fancy particle effects to numb your brain as you follow instructions and wreck everything in sight.  It’s a palate cleanser for sure, and the options for downtime between Serious War Shooter 8 and Emotional Pain Simulator GOTY Edition are limited, on console at least.  That changed recently though with Bang-On Balls: Chronicles escaping from its PC only confines, and Exit Plan Games aims to bring some much needed levity to your living room, especially if you’re going all out with the couch co-op.

There’s a problem with getting older in that you genuinely do start to see the cycles in whatever your interests happen to be, and whilst you want to take new things on merit you can’t help hark back, and I can try and stop myself but it’ll do no good here.  Bang-on Balls: Chronicles is channelling early 2000’s platform adventures so hard it’s risking bursting its own banks… and it’s a very good thing.  It’s premise is simple and doesn’t waffle with loads of cutscenes explaining why there’s a world inhabited solely by ball-shaped creatures, how they’re able to setup movie studios, and why you need to enter the film worlds and smash stuff.  Because.  It.  Doesn’t.  Matter.  In simpler times you were thrown in at the deep end and just had to take what was presented to you at face value, sod whether it actually makes sense.  All that’s important is that you can waddle, roll, jump and smackdown around a densely filled 3D world and explore to find cool and interesting things to do.  It’s purposeful by the way, Exit Plan started with the thought of how to make a simple, fun game and balls pretty much came to mind immediately and the rest was built around that.  Sure, there’s a bit of complexity layered in to make it work and look pretty, yet the core philosophy is what drives the gameplay and your purpose across the 5 hour-ish story runtime.

Controlling Bob (I’m pretty sure that’s what the character is called), the aim is to enter the levels and complete the core objectives that in turn lead to the boss.  Defeat them and it’s task complete and on to the next.  Nothing too tricky in that, eh?  Well, no, though the surprise is the density of the levels and the amount of distractions that can de-rail your purpose.  Oh, and how some have clear objectives that conclude quickly, or others have multistage activities that result in mini stories being told.  With each having a historical theme it allows a distinct style and enemy set to be brought into play, and the way some of the challenges mix with those themes is wonderful.  There’s an early stage with the balls version of the space race that particularly showcases choice and makes you want to go back and playthrough the level again to see what you can change.  Even focusing only on what needs doing, the size of some of the levels means stumbling across collectibles and spotting inaccessible areas, items and enemies that look like a fun diversion.  Bang-on Balls: Chronicles is no good for those with short attention spans, and at the same time is perfect for them too.  Mostly though, it’s a homage to classic platformers like Spyro, Sonic and Sly Racoon, where there’s something new and different to see in each new world, and a constant stream of surprises and enticements to keep playing and revisiting the levels.  Hit up the network points dotted around and you can explore as a group with online players too, opening up a whole host of additional mayhem to be had.

A key driver for exploration and replay is picking up new items to customise your ball.  Whether clothes, accessories or tattoos, there are multiple items to add to the collection and give Bob a unique appearance.  It’s not signposted well (deliberately) but weapons are also part of the collectibles and have purposeful uses throughout the game.  Bosses in particular grant powerful artefacts when you defeat them and checking your inventory regularly is a must.  A lot of the time extras are hidden around the level or awarded for completing specific non-story related tasks, and you’ll have your work cut out finding them all.  Even in the hub world there are many hidden away, including in mini games that will test your skills as much as your patience.  Then there are movie reels which will complete the sets in the studio hub, and characters to free from imprisonment if you’re looking for ways to extend the gameplay as much as possible.  The “story” mode may be over relatively quickly, the busywork isn’t.

Fortunately, Bang-on Balls: Chronicles is a lovely game to look at and plays so smoothly that re-rolling around the levels is hardly a chore.  The stylised representation of the different time periods really works, and the lighting effects make the worlds and characters pop.  On first visit a lot of the areas feel cluttered and a little maze-like, though a bit of familiarisation and some tactical smacking and they become much easier to navigate.  Combat is also very easy to engage in – bouncing on your foe is the quickest and easiest way to defeat them, with most bad balls having a small gauge to indicate the amount of attacks needed to take them down.  Satisfyingly, if you position yourself in the right way you can continually power bomb and attempt to squash them flat, and with larger enemies it’s great to see them shrink down to more manageable sizes as you whoop them into submission.  Keep your eyes open too as there are various powerups dotted around that grow your ball to an extreme size and let you dish out much needed punishment.  Be aware though, as it’s an old skool vibe, you do have a life meter and when it’s empty it’s game over… or rather not.  In the vein of recent rogue- and souls-likes you can find your tombstone and recover your lost currency, of which you’ll have had half taken away with the death.  It’s neat and unlikely to ever cause a full game over, though keeps an element of tactical thinking in the grander fights.

Bang-On Balls: Chronicles currency that you “lose” half of on defeat comes from the orbs that you smash out of the environment and enemies.  These little blue glowing balls can be used to activate mechanisms if you’re playing on your own (co-op players don’t need to spend them), or can be spent on buying the cosmetics you find on various NPCs around the levels.  These are typically outfits or garments, but can extend to accessing new areas, or floats that are used to sail across bodies of water – worth a note, Bob can roll around underwater, but will drown after a time.  It feels difficult to run out of orbs, in my playtime I always had more than enough to spend on anything I came across, though no one likes losing their hard earned cash so you’ll always be hoovering them up… literally, with the ability to suck in any that are close by.  All these glowing items getting spread about through the chaos of destruction, coupled with the level lighting, story driven day/night cycles and great movement and speed particle effects makes for a busy looking screen, but a great looking one too.  It all runs smoothly no matter how much is going on or what you’re doing physics-wise to try and tax the engine.  Audio is also atmospheric yet jovial, and there’s plenty of banter between the balls on screen that makes them sound a little too close legally to Minions.  Everything combines to make for a light-hearted and entertaining experience that’s suitable for all ages, despite the many, many, many opportunities for innuendo.

In short then, Bang-on Balls: Chronicles is a blast.  It won’t demand the next 6 years of your life as well as half your mortgage payment, though it will deliver on fun and silliness each time you sit down with it.  There’s a love of the genre it’s based on that comes through every frame that flicks across the screen, and given the gaming trends have moved away from the platforming action/adventure genre, it does feel surprisingly fresh.  Partly down to the sheer richness of the level design and how full they are, and emphasised by impressive graphics built on a stable foundation.  Those not familiar with older titles are going to find this particularly, well… bizarre (in a good way).  Anyone who had a passion for zany characters running amok with no sensible reason for it are going to find a lot to enjoy, and it’s a hearty recommend to get your head out of the heavier going side of gaming that dominates the charts.

A PS5 review copy of Bang-On Balls: Chronicles was provided by Exit Plan Games PR team, and the game is out now on PlayStation 5, Xbox X|S and PC for around £25 depending on platform.

The Verdict


The Good: Colourful | Chaotic | Charming

The Bad: Easy to zip through | Can feel a bit unguided initially

The following two tabs change content below.


Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, one half of the Muddyfunkrs DJ duo (find us over on Hive Radio UK), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *