Polyball is a new Early Access Physics Platformer by Studio Monolith in the same vein as Super Monkey Ball or Marble Blast. What appears to be a simple game about moving your ball from start to finish as quickly as possible has proven to be one of the most refreshing and relaxing experiences I have had playing a game since my childhood. Not only is the game well designed from a mechanical perspective, it places you in a world full of diverse aesthetic appeal and welcoming environments.
As always I am going to break down the game into its various parts, touching on everything I think makes the game great, and anything I think could use some improvement.
I have to say I absolutely love the artistic direction Monolith took with this game. Each and every level feels unique and massive, without actually overwhelming the player. Every time I enter a new level I was filled with this sense of scale and a desire to explore the level. More importantly, each level truly felt different from the last. I have nothing bad to say about this aspect of the game, and I always try to come up with at least one thing to nit-pick about, so Kudos to Monolith for that one.
The music is excellent, and I never tired of hearing it. Even after an hour straight of play time and I found myself stopping now and then to appreciate the music. This is a double edged sword, however, when combined with the slow down effect that comes from “dying”. I found myself dying a LOT during the second set of levels, and the constant warping of the music became a bit jarring at times. I appreciate the idea behind it, but it did get to the point where I was dying 6 or more times a minute and I could no longer enjoy the music because I was too busy listening to the warped sounds of spherical death.
There is only one real mechanic to this game, and that is momentum. However, learning all the factors that are used to determine and alter your ball’s momentum is no small feat. Everything you do as the player will obviously change the speed of the ball, turning reduces your forward momentum, and pulling back slows you down. The environment also has a huge impact on your speed, with things like puddles and inclines affecting your speed. Jumping also has an impact, though it feels a bit different and if I had to pick one thing to complain about, this would be it. While you’re moving at high speed, it feels like jumping changes some forward momentum into upward momentum. This makes perfect sense! But when you stand still, you can still jump, which really breaks that theory apart. Then, when you’re moving up a hill, jumping seems to allow you to move faster, as if it isn’t gravity that’s slowing you, but as if the surface you were touching was covered in super glue. Still, it’s consistent and you can master it given time, so I can’t hit them too hard for it.
Level Design: 8/10
The level design is going to make or break a platform game like this, but Monolith continues to impress. While still in early access, there are a number of standard “Story Mode” levels available, as well as many extra levels. They also include things like races with laps or other types of options instead of the standard Get from A to B as fast as possible, which is awesome. Overall, there is great variety available In the game already, and more to come. And if that weren’t enough, this game will be Steam Workshop enabled, allowing the most masochistic of us to download levels made by other players. However, I give this category an 8/10 simply because of their Volcano world, which was the only area I saw that felt repetitive and, admittedly, punishing in its puzzles.
The thing that amazed me more than anything else about Polyball is the sheer quantity of features present in the game, planned or already implemented. Local and network Multiplayer with at least a half dozen game modes; World Leaderboards for best times on a level; Ghosts to race from other players’ times; customization unlocks and collectibles in each level. This game is pulling NO punches, and I have to say I am very pleased with what I have seen so far.
Replay Value: 10/10
Polyball natively has very high replay value if you’re any kind of competitive. Between multiplayer modes and world leaderboards on fastest level times, the game has hours of content and plenty of reason to go through it all again and again. Add in the Steam Workshop support and it really takes it over the top. This is a game that puzzle and platform enthusiasts will be picking up again and again for a long, long time.
Who Should Buy This Game?
So you’re wondering now if you should buy this game. If you like a game with an interesting physics engine to master this game could be for you. If you loved Super Monkey Ball from the GameCube era, I would definitely recommend picking this up. And if you like a game with split screen multiplayer and controller support, This promises to be another Gem in that category.
Who should NOT buy this game?
Some of you may NOT like Polyball, but generally I can say that those of you who won’t like it probably aren’t watching this review. Nonetheless, if you are not a puzzle or platform gamer, needless to say this isn’t for you. If you aren’t OK with “dying” over and over to learn a level, you might want to steer clear. And if you have trouble identifying with a vaguely spherical object as your protagonist, then Polyball is not the game for you.
Polyball is already in a great place, and I have to say it promises to be even greater as time goes on. I honestly believe that it will re-define the standard for this genre, and games in the future will use it as their measuring stick when they shoot for something great. I strongly recommend anyone out there who is looking for a new platformer to pick this game up, I really think you’ll be pleased.