Sunday, June 25

Star Balls Review

Star Balls is a simple mini-golfing game developed by Bolder Games. It features a story mode with 35 levels, 15 bonus levels, and a variety of power-ups that are basically required to move through the game. Various obstacles and objects such as portals, enemies, and shields will help and/or hinder you throughout each level. Overall, the game isn’t much more than a small, somewhat unpolished experience that will last you a few hours, but for five dollars it may be a worthwhile mini-golfing fix.

Star Balls is at its core a mini-golfing game. It features power-ups with various effects and three different characters to unlock and choose from. You start off as Orbit, who the game describes as a "plumber bot". You accidentally stowaway on a ship by falling into it, and your only option is to roll up into a ball and mini-golf your way out of there, apparently.

The characters in the game have very few differences from each other, aside from the fact each one comes with a free level one power-up and they get progressively more power-up slots with each of the three characters. Orbit has two and is unlocked at the beginning of the game, Tess LaCoil has three and is unlocked during the story, and the other character has four and is unlocked at the end of the story. This makes the character selection obvious as you will always be wanting to play the character you have unlocked most recently, with the exception of Tess LaCoil on certain levels due to a camera glitch.

With that in mind, the camera in Star Balls was one that wasn't the best. With the character Tess LaCoil, there was a glitch that happened randomly around one-third of the time I reset the ball. The camera would be completely vertical, and there was no way to fix it other than resetting the level. On some of the harder levels, this made the character nearly unusable, and due to the character design this was very hindering. The camera also will go right out of the map if walls are in its path, with further shows a lack of polish with this game.

Although the game has many problems, it shows promise in many of the levels. For about 27 or so of the games 35 story levels, I had a lot of fun playing through. I felt like the power-ups were useful to the game but not necessary, and the occasional hole-in-one was enough to keep me going. After that, most of the final levels just felt terrible. The game doesn't let you move on until you get a score it deems passable, meaning I spent far too much time on many of these levels. Still, I had a lot of fun with the mechanics overall, despite them being frustrating towards the end. If you can look past the last few levels, you'll have an enjoyable experience.

This is all portrayed through a few comic panels occurring every dozen levels or so, and this story didn't feel meaningful by any means to me. The comics were quick, and there wasn't much there. The story ties in with unlocking the second character, Tess LaCoil, but that is the only time it has anything to do with the game. This game could have might as well not had a story and the effect would have been just the same.

Graphics and Sound
Graphically, this game was a bit disappointing. Every level looked similar with the only theme being the spaceship. The spaceship was a dull gray, and while it didn't look muddy it felt boring. If they made different parts of the spaceship different graphical themes the game could have been very improved. To add to the dull colors, sometimes when the ball or camera is going fast there is screen tearing. This game does not offer fantastic graphics, which shows even more of a lack of polish and adds a repetitive feeling that makes the game hard to look at.

In the sound department, there simply isn't much to say. There are some simple casual sound effects that don't feel too repetitive, and the soundtrack I had very little to say about. It wasn't exceptional, but it wasn't actively ruining my experience. The sound in this game isn't memorable by any means.

Currently, Star Balls offers 43 achievements for 1000 gamerscore. The achievement list the game offers was one of the most disappointing pieces with this game. Far too many of the achievements in this game are grindy, and require much more time than the game takes to complete. For example, during my playthrough I didn't even get the five hours of play achievement, despite playing through the main story and some of the bonus levels. That would be fine, except that is just the first play X hours achievement, with the others going up to 500 (Yes, 500) hours of play. Nobody will play this game for that much time, plain and simple. The highest value achievement for scoring points requires one million points, despite an average playthrough giving less than one-fifth of that. This achievement list is just too grindy for its own good.

Overall, Star Balls is a game with problems in nearly every area, but the core gameplay is simply fun. If it was at any other price I would find it hard to recommend, but for five dollars I think it may be worth your time. It isn't a great game by any stretch of the word, but I had fun with it despite its many flaws. If a mini-golfing game sounds good to you, and you can overlook the massive list of cons, Star Balls might be for you. If the core gameplay doesn't sound great to you, the game simply won't be worth playing.

Game: Star Balls
Developer: Bolder Games
Publisher: Bolder Games
Price: $4.99
Size: 4.61 GB
Release Date: May 31 2017
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