Back in the day, before zombies ran wild over today’s media, the mummy used to be the king of the undead creature scene. To be honest, I had almost forgotten that they existed until I saw an early preview for Teotl Studios’ The Ball, which highlighted different ways one could kill a mummy. You take on the role of archeologist who is trapped in a dormant volcano somewhere in 1940 Mexico, who quickly discovers an ancient artifact: a handheld device that controls a giant ball.
Describing itself as a “first-person action and puzzle game”, The Ball certainly makes good use of its puzzle element. Traveling through this massive underground city full of devious traps and mechanisms created to keep the Ball locked away, the puzzles in the game usually involve tandem movement by the player and said Ball, whether it’s by placing it in one location to activate a switch while you move to another revealed location, or by using the ball as a stepping stone to reach a higher location. The difficulty for these is very well-balanced. As the game progresses, they expand to more complex mechanisms, often requiring you to solve several in the row before you can move on.
The combat, unfortunately, could have used a little more polish. While enemies are uncommon during the game’s early stages, the later ones are full of them. The way to defeat said enemies usually revolves around crushing them the Ball you control, which will entertaining at first, wears a little thin after a while. By far the least entertaining segments in the game are when they separate you from the Ball and force you to go through a horde of enemies who can quickly tear you apart while you can only gently push one of them back at a time. There are boss fights and special enemies here and there to mix it up, but these end up being just another puzzle, since they’re usually beaten by interacting with stage hazards and mechanisms rather than attacking them with the Ball itself.
Luckily, the controls are tight and well-responsive. There is always an indicator on-screen showing how far away the Ball is from you, as well as a very generous (and very optional) hint system that outright tells you how to solve every puzzle in the game with the press of a button, which is a nice solution to people who might become frustrated at some of the game’s puzzles.
The game does make good use of its setting as well. The puzzles are decorated with a tribal feel, and enemies are usually adorned with tattered rags of a civilization long since forgotten. The dungeons and cities, while grim and desolate, are always full of color. This also works as a gameplay mechanic, since certain colors are usually attributed to the game’s different switches and doorways, the latter being a helpful sign of where you need to go next.
Ultimately, The Ball is a nice mix of puzzle-solving with the occasional mummy-crushing that, while satisfying to those looking for a game that’ll test their puzzle solving skills, could have used a little more work.