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Ballotron Oceans Review

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Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: Ballotron Oceans is a mere 2000 Gamerscore. We say ‘mere’ because Ballotron, the first in the series, managed to accumulate 3000 Gamerscore, through sorcery involving title updates. So, if you’re partial to achievements, you’re only getting twice the normal number with Ballotron Oceans. Oh, the disappointment.

There are a few different kinds of sequel. There’s the complete reinvention; the fix-what’s-broken sequel; and then there’s the glorified DLC. We expected Ballotron Oceans to be one of the first two. While fine, the first game had plenty to fix, and the ‘Oceans’ naming made us wonder if we were going to whole new places. But these were all misdirection. Ballotron Oceans is more of the same, in all the same places

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The aim of Ballotron Oceans is identical. In single-screen levels, you need to get a large blue ball to touch a large green ball. But you don’t control either of them, which makes the task rather complicated: instead, you pull back and fire smaller blue balls. These are like the birds in Angry Birds, or a cue ball in a snooker game. You pull them back like a rubber band: the further you tug them back, the faster they fly.

And again, like a snooker game, you are achieving the goal vicariously. By firing the little blue balls, you hit larger blue balls, and those larger blue balls eventually – and hopefully – hit the green ball. Grazing the sides of the blue balls causes them to skew in the opposite direction, as there are real-life, snooker-like physics at play.

Where things get fiddly is the obstacles. Ballotron Oceans, like Ballotron before it, has a host of cubes that it tosses about willy-nilly in an effort to impede you. There are nudgable blocks, immovable blocks, lazer blocks that destroy you instantly and more. The puzzle is spotting the best, least obstructive path to the green ball and then executing on it.

Ballotron Oceans, to its credit, does introduce a new block and then proceeds to fill most levels with them. And rather than being something to bemoan, they’re something to celebrate, as they make the levels easier and less frustrating. 

The blocks are bubbles. Hit them and they will muffle your speed and perhaps alter your direction subtly, but after being hit they disappear. This bubble-wrapping of the levels means that you must allow for the effect they have on you, but you don’t necessarily have to change direction. Firing at them at full speed will still get you across the game screen. They’re a half-replacement for the more obstructive coloured blocks, and they’re welcome. They protect against some of the trial and error that we criticised in Ballotron.

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But it’s just one block, and the rest of Ballotron Oceans is precisely the same as Ballotron. It’s more layouts, more puzzles, just with a very slight, almost imperceptible, difficulty reduction. 

With so little changing, it’s the same mix of positives and negatives that we threw at Ballotron. On the positive side, there are levels that are quite clever, creating trick-shots that feel like they are impossible, until you find a path or approach that unlocks them. It’s when Ballotron Oceans plays like a puzzle game that it’s at its best.

Other levels feel like an exercise in randomness. The only approach is to hit the small balls with all the power at your disposal, and watch as the cue ball ricochets around the level. With luck, the two important balls collide and the level is done. But this randomness gets old quick, as it’s only fun when things are going your way. The bubble blocks soften this blow, but it’s still there.

Once again, the achievements – all 2000 of them – unlock within the first half of the game. Once again, the levels are over in somewhere between an hour and two hours. This is a lot of Gamerscore for not much of a game, and Ballotron Oceans attempts to create some replayability through tough-to-collect coins and a star rating system. Neither lead to anything, so we didn’t feel the tug to collect them all. That said, we appreciated the effort to include them.

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Ballotron wasn’t a game that we necessarily needed more of. It was a fascinating take on the snooker game, but that was about the limit of what we took away from it. So, finding a sequel that adopts a ‘more of the same’ approach didn’t fill us with jubilation.

But saying that, we didn’t regret our time with Ballotron Oceans. It softens some of the edges of the original game thanks to its bubble-wrap blocks, and doesn’t infuriate half as much as a result. So while this is a retread, it’s one that doesn’t stick around, understands the original’s faults, and bribes you with 2000 Gamerscore for your troubles. It’s not exactly a poster-quote, but Ballotron Oceans isn’t a complete waste of your time.

You can buy Ballotron Oceans from the Xbox Store

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