Potato Sack #3

The Potato Sack by Steam was an attempt at getting a bunch of Indie games together, and packaging them at a single price. It was a heavily discounted package that helped draw attention to some titles that might not normally have seen much attention. While the first 2 posts I made on this topic revolved heavily around smaller, more obscure titles, there were a few in the Potato Sack package there tried to push a bit further and show that they had more in common with big budget games than most indie efforts. Some worked better than others in this package, and the game I want to take a brief look at today is simply called: The Ball

The first thing you notice is that it touts the use of Unreal engine and that it has a fairly nice-looking if brief opening scene, giving it a story before plunging you into the depths of an archealogical dig on your own. You then happen to come across a strange 'gun' for lack of a better term, though it's really more of a physical hammer (left-click) and a drawing device (right-click). Your primary tool in this game is a very large, ancient ball. You can propel it forward with the left-click and draw it back to you with the right.

What do you use the ball for? Just about everything. It's your tool in combat (run over monkeys, zombies and more with it) and your primary means of solving puzzles. I would say the majority of the game is puzzle solving and exploration. To that end, the game generally works pretty well. The environments look pretty good, the puzzles are generally logical and the ball is integrated into them pretty well. The music is decent as well, but the sound effects annoyed me a fair amount - usually because you have to have the 'draw' part of the gun active so the ball follows you around, and it's a somewhat grating sound after awhile.

Also of concern are the controls. At times they can be really touchy, and while the game does have checkpoints, they are spread apart just far enough that you find yourself retracing your steps. Also, while the ball itself handles okay, there's times when you have to 'hammer' cubes into locations and that just feels clumsy. Also, I got hung up on environments at least 4 or 5 times while I played, and was finally the reason I stopped about halfway through. The game does not seem to be terribly long - looking at the achievements it appears the game is about 4 or 5 chapters and I got through the first couple relatively quickly. But the last time I had gotten hung up, there had not been a save in nearly 25 minutes, and then I tried to jump over something, and got 'stuck' on a wall. The first couple of times it happened it was annoying, by the last time though, it was just killing the game for me because it seemed like each time forced a lot of lost time.

Combat is also kind of awkward. You get the hang of it quickly enough, launching the ball at your targets and then pulling it back to you to run over anyone you might have missed. But, with the controls being so jumpy at times, it is easy to get ganged up on by charging creatures and feel like you never got a chance to defend yourself.

On the one hand, I can appreciate what the developer, Teotl Studios was trying to do here, but the $20 price tag, annoying situations/glitches/controls and what appears to be a somewhat short run time make it hard to recommend this particular title. There is a demo of it on Steam if you think you might be interested, but this is a title that I'm glad was a throw-in and really didn't cost me anything as I would probably only give it a 4.5 to a 5 overall.

I included a brief video below of me solving a couple of puzzles, and you can see the game mechanics in action.


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