If you were a Viking warrior, you’d do anything to reach the mythical land of Valhalla. Similarly, if you were a simple ball, then Ballhalla is obviously the place to be. But how much of a draw is the Road to Ballhalla? Well, if the rhythmical gameplay found within this stunning puzzler is anything to go by, it’s right up there with the most iconic wonders of the world.
Road to Ballhalla has nothing to do with Vikings, but it does have an awful lot to do with balls. Loads of balls. And it is one of these with which you will play, as you attempt to push your way through a multitude of devious levels in order to make it to the exit portal of each.
As game ideas go, that is nothing new. We’ve had spherical joy for years, with the likes of Marble Madness utilising the ideas way back in the day, giving us the opportunity to roll with ease from one starting point, to a concluding end. It is however the way Road to Ballhalla goes about things which ensure that this is a puzzler of the highest quality.
See, from the get go, you are lulled into a false sense of security. Moving your small ball through the easiest of stages, getting to grips with the simple mechanics of rolling and boosting, it is a cinch to find progress made. But then the lovingly directive text narrative that overlays itself on the stages switches up. It urges you to try new things. It requests you to make decisions that you wouldn’t normally make. It tasks you with dipping your spherical toe into the world of death itself. Anything to reach Ballhalla I guess!
It is from that moment on that Road to Ballhalla becomes a stupidly addictive affair, with you never knowing whether to trust the narrator or not. Do you really want to roll over that deadly looking pulsing red square? Surely that will see death occur? What about the blue ones? It’s only via trial and error will you ever be able to become at one with what Road to Ballhalla is trying to convey, however thankfully, when the errors do occur, it is just a matter of a second or two before you are back into the thick of the action, trying out a different route and new tactic.
In order to see progression made along this road to enlightenment, you need to not just make your way to the end portal, but will need to pick up numerous yellow orbs in the process. The more you collect, the more tokens you earn and the easier it is to unlock every single stage included. Hampering you though is also the need to do all this whilst respawning as little as possible. When each stage comes with a ton of obstacles to navigate round, you will need to fall back on the many checkpoints… die too many times though, and no matter how many orbs you pick up, your tokens will be left unclaimed.
Each stage has been rather brilliantly put together. Early levels will see you just needing to roll around in the safest way possible, avoiding as many of those red squares as you possibly can, but it doesn’t take long before further mechanics like lasers, portals, different coloured squares and big balls that hunt you down are thrown in. For the most part, you’ll need to tread carefully, worrying about your health levels at all times, because as you already know, too many respawns will see you failing to move on further. Thankfully, in order to move around in a swifter fashion, a simple boost has been included, however this is where things get tricky; whereas you can move normally and not have to worry too much about touching death-bringing obstacles, should you be boosting when whacked by a red square, then it is instant death.
With no par times to worry about – at least not on the main campaign stages – Road to Ballhalla happily lets you take your time working your way through each level. Yes, there are moments when you’ll have to get a shift on, ensuring that you place your ball safely in between lasers and balls should the need arise, but on the most part, this is a game that gives you time to focus.
Working your way through the variety of stages and areas that encompass these are pretty much all there is to Road to Ballhalla, but in navigating your way between them, a lovely level select hub brings even more fun. With the same distrust of the narrator whirling its way around in your head, if you’re looking to take in some speedrunning with the Rush trials, or need a proper test of your ball rolling skills in the Bonus stages, options are there. The fact that there are no less than 192 tokens to aim for in the standard levels, another couple of dozen in the Bonus stages and 84 stars to obtain in the Rush speedruns, Road to Ballhalla certainly isn’t a game that you’ll be done with in a matter of minutes. In fact, being able to unlock all the stages and grab every last token will take some doing, especially once secret paths and areas come into the equation.
Holding the entirety of Road to Ballhalla together is not just a lovely visual set which allows for ball, trail and colour styles to be amended to your liking, but also a rather stunning soundtrack. This isn’t just here for audio clarity sakes though and the rhythm and beats found in each stage of Ballhalla are essential to the overall gameplay. Squares light up on beats, lasers fire out in time with the music, and further down the line your own ball will start to pulse, fully embracing the magic of the audio. It’s not a lie to say that the combination of visuals, audio and the puzzles included is very nearly perfect.
In fact, Road to Ballhalla is very nearly perfect, and other than a concern that the price being asked is slightly the wrong side of the £10 mark, there is little to not like. Yep, it can occasionally be a bit of an issue hunting down secret paths when you know that your respawn count is slowly increasing, and in order to totally max out some of the later levels you’re going to have to pull on every skill known to man, but I guess the road to Ballhalla shouldn’t be an easy one, with only the very best ball rollers allowed access to its hallowed halls.
Road to Ballhalla teases you from the get go, and is able to bring about a strange sense of joy found from the simple rolling of a single ball through multiple stages – it is an almost celestial ball roller that delivers a puzzle experience straight out of heaven itself.
You may not be a Viking warrior, but you’ll most definitely want to tread the Road to Ballhalla.