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Score: 90%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Sandlot Games
Developer: ZC Funcraft
Media: Download/0
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Ballhalla is a puzzle game from Sandlot Games. Simple, addictive concepts with fairly high production value are what a lot of casual games are about now. Chances are, you will get hooked on these games pretty easily, but when the full version exceeds the ten dollar price tag, it is time to step back and see if it's worth it.

Graphics are bright, crisp, and colorful as you can see from any screenshot. Everything is pretty sharp and good looking. There are lots of glowy and flashy effects to reward your efforts as well. Some computer-generated cartoon stills help to tell the story in Adventure mode, but don't expect movie quality graphics.

Background music is upbeat with a synthesized sound to it. It's pretty pleasant and even has a bit of a movie soundtrack feel to it at times. Sound effects sound professional as well, and they actually contribute to gameplay. For example, there's a train whistle sound that warns you when the scale is moving, and bells that warn when you're getting too close to tipping. You also hear the friendly voice of Professor Quark during the story scenes and during the game when certain things happen.


Ballhalla has a light story that involves Professor Quark's experiments with dark matter gone wrong. He is about to send his robot to check out a mysterious portal when his cat accidentally gets loose and jumps into the portal, arriving in another dimension. With that you have the recipe for disaster, political cover-ups, deception, and destruction on a mass scale. Just kidding, there's not much more to the story than the cat and his robot getting lost in a parallel world, but it is a cute, light story.

Ballhalla starts with a simple puzzle game concept that gradually adds more and more complex elements and limitations as you progress through the levels. The concept seems fairly unique: you are given a tank full of balls that you need to keep balanced, but you need to match balls together in order to fill the Energy Meter and complete each level. At the start of each level, every ball has an equal weight, but when you match a ball with others, it gains weight. At first it's just a matter of keeping weight relatively equal on each side of the tank. Later, new restrictions and difficulties are added on: different colored balls add to the difficulty of finding a match, a moving range of balance adds to the difficulty of keeping the tank balanced, and various other elements keep you from working the puzzle in only one way. Just to give you an example of how challenging it can get, in later levels, the tank tilts a full 360 degrees and keeps going. You'll have to continually add weights to different areas to keep it spinning around at just the right pace.

In addition to Adventure mode, there is Relax and Time Attack mode. Adventure mode is the main game with the story elements. You'll be occupied with this for a long time if you want to see the entire story: there are 60 levels of it. I didn't see the point of Relax mode, other than to play similar levels over again without any story elements. But hey, more levels mean more variety. The only thing that seemed to be missing was a random mode that would throw in random difficulty elements from different levels of the game. There is also no instant difficulty adjustment available, you simply have to play up to the harder levels. Puzzle game veterans have no choice but to play through the game's tutorials to get to the really chaotic stuff they want.


Ballhalla is just not a difficult game until you get to the really high levels of Adventure mode. That's not to say it can't keep you occupied, but it's just hard to lose until you reach about level 30 in Adventure mode. The game gives you so many power-ups - I'm looking at you, Panic Button - that it's like having a perpetual safety net. Actually, there's one thing that will probably save you from ever needing that Panic button: a highlight appears around balls that will match up when you click them. In early levels, all you really need when you're in a pinch is mouse over the desired area of the tank and look for the highlights.

Of course, there are ranks and trophies to fight for, so there is an incentive for taking risks and doing well. It's just that those goals are optional, and a bit hidden. You'll probably only find out about these rewards after you meet the goals you were unaware of. A visit to the Help menu, however, will let you know what you have to do in order to obtain these accolades.

You can unlock a Time Attack mode after completing a set number of levels in Adventure. This mode offers a bit of instant difficulty, but like Adventure mode, it takes a while to get to the more difficult levels.

Game Mechanics:

Ballhalla's mechanics are pretty simple. Click on different colored balls to combine them into balls of larger weight. The main thing that gives the game complexity is the physics of balancing the tank. Put more weight further from the pivot point, the tank tips easily. Put more weight closer to the pivot, and it takes a lot before it affects the balance. Tanks of different shapes and sizes, and different levels of resistance add to the variety, so you don't get used to one pattern of play.

As if the highlights on matchable balls weren't enough of a helping hand, there is also a power-up called Illumination that you can use that will show all matches on the board for 20 seconds. However, other helpful items actually have a bit of risk associated with them. Brakes will stop the tank from tilting, but this means you have to mentally balance the weights for a while. Otherwise, when the brakes are removed, the tank could be headed for a spill quicker than you can recover from it. 2x Overdrive is an option that becomes available when you create several heavier balls called Megaballs, but using it causes the balance range to start to move.

Is Ballhalla fun? That's probably the only question you need answered when you're looking at this type of game. The answer is a simple yes. Balancing the tank, managing power-ups, keeping up with the chaos: it's just addictive fun. Though it takes a while to get a challenge out of it, chances are you won't notice the time fly by. The graphics and sound effects are slick and professional, so this game easily wins in the presentation category. The free demo you can download from Sandlot Games should help you decide if it's worth it.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Pentium II 400MHz or better, 256 MB System RAM, 3D Hardware Accelerated Video Card with 32MB RAM ***Hardware accelerated 3D *is* required. That is, only accelerated rasterization (Voodoo 1 & TNT and up), DirectX 8 or above, Keyboard & mouse required, Joystick and game pad are not supported

Test System:

Windows XP, 3.20 GHz Intel Pentium 4, 1 GB Ram, RADEON X850, Creative SB Audigy 2 ZS

Sony PlayStation Portable Manhunt 2 Windows Julie Saves the Eagles

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated