On the Xbox 360, I was obsessed with a marble game called Marble Blast Ultra. I spent dozens upon dozens of hours trying to master every level, while manipulating the 3D space to find shortcuts and beat my friends on the leaderboards. Shaving half a second off of a time trial was a thrill each time. For the first time since then, there is another marble game that has had much of the same effect, even if it’s a bit different gameplay wise.

Road to Ballhalla is a marble rolling game (action-puzzler?), that uses rhythm based puzzles as the main draw. Using an isometric view, it’s more restrictive in how you can manipulate levels, but they’re tighter and better designed because of it. The goal is to either collect all of the tokens on each level while avoiding death, or beating them as fast as possible in time trial mode. In the main mode, tokens are scattered throughout the level encouraging players to explore every direction to find them all. There are checkpoints scattered around, and you’re allowed up to five deaths before being penalized for it. Time trial mode is doing whatever you can to get to the end as fast as possible.

Positives

+ Road to Ballhalla is extremely addictive, and I honestly couldn’t put it down. It was a joy to beat levels within the parameters for all tokens, and then take what I learned into time trial mode and learn a completely different way to play.

+ The level design is excellent, and as someone who loves time trials, Ballhalla delivers. A lot of the shortcuts you’ll find take real effort and practice to get right, and I can’t say enough about how well the rhythm aspect works. Sometimes it’ll prohibit you from moving forward, but eventually, you learn how to use it to your advantage.

+ The variety in level design is exceptional from beginning to end. From using the rhythm to hop over gaps in some stages, to using beat-based invisibility, I was constantly surprised at the curveballs being thrown my way.

+ Some may complain about the difficulty, but I think each world offers a significant challenge that feels fair and fun. Practice will eventually make perfect.

+ The floors of the levels have messages on them as you make your way through. Some are legitimately funny, while others are there simply to troll you. It makes it feel like the game is interacting back with you, and was an unexpected joy I didn’t think I’d ever see from a marble game.

Negatives

I’m not sure it’s completely negative, but some gamers may be put off by how different the regular levels are compared to the time trial versions. It’s almost two totally different types of games. I personally loved it, but I can see why others may not like the collectible nature of the regular levels.

The B-sides and bonus levels sometimes feel more cohesive and better designed than the main levels.

Conclusion

Road to Ballhalla is one of my favorite downloadable games out on current consoles. While there is a bit of difficulty you’ll have to battle through, doing so is incredibly rewarding. The level design is top notch, and learning how to beat each one faster is addicting and thrilling. The game oozes charm, and the rhythm-based gameplay elevates Road to Ballhalla into must-play territory.

Score – 8.5/10

 

*Reviewer spent 10+ hours playing through the regular mode and conquering the time trial leaderboards.

Achievements/Trophies - There's 22 in total (19 on PS4). 
You'll have to 100% the game, which depending on your skill level, will take 5-8 hours. Getting all of the tokens on the main levels is easy enough, but mastering the time trials will take effort.
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Written by Shawn Ryan

I've been gaming for almost 30 years, with a vast array of knowledge (and Gamerscore) under my belt. I play everything, and tend to find the good even in bad games. There will never be a game better than The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

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