Bang-On Balls: Chronicles is a collect-a-thon 3D platformer in which you will run (or roll?) through several moments in history (accurate or otherwise) as you work towards a main mission, get a slew of collectibles, rescue allies, and wreak havoc.
Narratively speaking, Bang-On Balls: Chronicles is... well, nothing. You start the game in a movie-studio-like area and then jump into various worlds inspired by historical events. In terms of dialogue, an actual goal, or anything, you get pretty much zilch, and truthfully, I am really glad about that.
While a game without any form of narrative might sound like a chaotic mess that has little to no purpose, I actually found myself appreciating the fact that there wasn't any sort of story I had to follow. This title knows what it wants to be — a chaotic adventure where you destroy everything in sight — and it doesn't try to pretend to be something else or delve into areas it doesn't need to. While I'm usually a sucker for having a purpose or something to do, as anything narrative-heavy immediately catches my attention, the capability to run around and wreak havoc without being weighed down by a plot was a welcome, and even encouraged, approach.
If not following a narrative, what are you doing? Well, the short answer to that is quite simple: you are running around destroying things, collecting items, and decorating your character in increasingly whacky and out-of-place costumes as you try to complete an objective and every level. Bang-On Balls: Chronicles may seem like a 3D platformer at its surface, but it's really a chaos-filled adventure with collect-a-thon deep in its roots, being likely one of the first games I've ever experienced that takes a collection-focused approach with so little sustenance behind behind what you do... and I loved it.
Your adventure spans four worlds, though technically there are five if you include the HUB world, with a new one being added at a later date as a free expansion to the base game. In the first world, you take part in mediaeval eras as you dress up as Vikings, knights, peasants, and even Roman warriors and gladiators. Then? Your second quest is to choose between the USA and Russia in a race to see who can go to outer space and defeat The Moon first — yes, you read that right. Then? You play as a pirate who sails across the deep sea (which is really a glorified archipelago) to collect five coins. And all of this can be done whilst wearing armour resembling Thor and his secret desire to take part in Valkyrie training.
Each world is filled with a couple of collectibles and things to do, all of which serve different purposes. Of course, you have your main objective, which depends entirely on the era that you are partaking in, and then you have film cans that you can use to unlock things in the HUB world, rescuing innocent civilians from cages, and tons — and I mean TONS — of outfit parts to choose from.
While your primary goal will be to complete the objective of the world so you can move on, that's easier said than done, as you'll spend your time destroying the fully destructible environment and leaving chaos in your wake, ensuring that no house, fence, glass, foe, or tree is left standing. While you do that, you collect currency that you can use to unlock your cosmetics, with several dozen being scattered per level that you can then use whenever you advance, meaning that you can really dress up as an amalgamation of all four different worlds.
In each stage, you will have to fight a lot of enemies. They are mostly simple to defeat and pose no threat, with a simple spam dash towards them dealing enough damage to eventually rid yourself of their presence, but mini-bosses and world bosses were a bit more complex... and a ton more fun. Every boss has a different gimmick, which usually boils down to summoning foes while you complete a specific task that renders them vulnerable, and then you can bash your head against them repeatedly until their life depletes to zero. After this murder adventure, you can collect one cosmetic, likely related to the boss you just fought.
And that's where Bang-On Balls: Chronicles really shines. Senseless destruction and mindless murder isn’t up there in my favourite things to do — especially in videogames — but this title manages to perfectly turn it into everything I ever wanted to do, but even that paled to dressing up and changing my character as I unlocked more items, which made it so much more gratifying and enjoyable. I went from dressing as a random movie star that didn't belong in the setting to a mediaeval peasant, to a mediaeval knight, which then turned into a Mjölnir-wielding, all-powerful chicken Valkyrie hybrid. And I loved every second of it.
There's something to say about getting to play pretend and overtake legions of foes by bashing your head against everything until you emerge victorious whilst wearing the most ridiculous outfits. Though you can use powered weapons and cosmetics you find, like wings that let you hover a bit or a tomato you can throw at foes that works as a long-range weapon, I found I had the most fun when I just dressed however I wanted and banged my head against anything that stood in my path.
The possibilities truly feel endless, too. Even from the beginning of the game, you have six categories to choose from, which include 12 skin colours or over 100 country-based ones you can choose from. Then, once you've started your adventures through the four worlds, you can choose from nine categories, each with ridiculous amounts of cosmetics to unlock, all of which you can merge together to create the perfect "you" (it just turns out my perfect me is a chicken mixed with anything I can find). I really enjoyed just running around finding cosmetics and pondering how I would make my outfit special with any new ones I found.
This title is a whacky adventure through and through, and it prides itself in being ridiculous; it's refreshing to see a game take an approach that is fun-centred and deviates from the art-heavy focus that videogames have turned into. It feels like it's a collect-a-thon title first and foremost, with many collectibles to find, all of which were always a joy as they gave me a reason to explore all of the individual levels.
Truth be told, Bang-On Balls: Chronicles has no business being as good as it is, and yet it still somehow manages to achieve it. I don’t usually enjoy senseless destruction and running around whilst dressed up, but banging my head against castle walls and breaking them apart as I waged war against all who stood in my path just somehow worked. There aren’t any forms of precise platforming or difficult sections, and it’s really a simple game, but it works so well that it makes it difficult not to recommend it. The absurdity of the scenes is a joy to behold, and it’s a refreshing break from story-heavy narratives that gives a similar relaxing vibe to life simulators whilst still managing to be action-packed enough to remain interesting for those who prefer fast-paced titles.
Bang-On Balls: Chronicles (Reviewed on Windows)
Excellent. Look out for this one.
Bang-On Balls: Chronicles is a true return to classic collect-a-thons, there is just too much to do. Complete the quests, get cosmetics, gather collectibles, get cosmetics, destroy the world, get cosmetics... and then look good while doing it, too.