Hitting below the belt.
It takes balls of steel to participate in this game...no really, big metal shiny balls and you have to use them instead of legs.
In the future, overcrowded prisons have become the locus for a new breed of sport. The "athletes" are robots called "Ball Breakers", named for the large steel ball that has replaced their legs, and these guys are bad news. The sport plays out like a like a mix of roller-derby, American Gladiators and Marble Madness. Contestants roll around treacherous terrain on a metal beach ball while battling other inmates and guards with their fists.
The competitions take place in locations around the prison complex (though don't expect a food fight in the cafeteria) and as you complete different competitions and earn medals new arenas will open up. Standard fare.
Each arena is geared towards the specific competition and plays off the post-apocalyptic scrap iron theme. There are only two materials to be found in the game: metal and dirt. Each level is loaded with deadly "additions" to make the competitions more interesting: gun turrets, turbines, flame throwers, angry guards and pits of water (you're a robot without legs, so swimming isn't your strong suit) are all strategically placed to make each level a uniquely dangerous battleground. Trust me, you'll have to work hard to stay alive in this game.
In general, each prison section will offer at least one of the standard competitions such as the Gauntlet, Pursuit, Last Man Rolling, King of the Hill, and Powerball. All the games involve combat of some sort (or at least survival); the degree of which depends on the contest.
Last Man Rolling is your excuse to pick up every blunt object you can find and club you opponent with it until you're the only one left rolling. The Race event pits you against dangerous curves while you punch left and right (Road Rash style) in a race to the finish line. Other competitions, like the Gauntlet, combine ideas, making you race against the clock while dodging gratuitous lasers and traps to reach the safety of a teleporter hidden somewhere in the level. Certain characters are better suited for different kinds of challenges, so the arenas that you choose to do battle in should reflect your robots stronger traits.
The game's variety keeps it fresh. True, there's not much diversity in enemies or booby traps, but the strategy for defeating them is different depending on the type of competition and the level itself. Sometimes it's best to rush in and smash an enemy's balls (snicker, snicker), while other times it's smarter to lead a pack of guards into the line of mounted cannon fire. No matter which strategy you favor, you can be sure that the action will remain a constant. Couple that with the quick loading times and you've got a game that's truly fast-paced.
One of the coolest features of the game is the "gelatinous ground" (for lack of a better term) that ripples when you jump too far or when an enemy explodes. It literally looks like a drop just hit the screen and caused the pixels to ripple like water. I'm not sure why that it was put in, but hey, it looks neat and doesn't cause the game to screw up, so I'm not one to complain.
The rolling dynamics are a cool spin on movement but often make it hard to avoid the numerous traps and enemies (who have a nasty way of punching faster than you). The levels themselves contain a lot of banked turns to help you move about, but I swear some levels were designed specifically to keep you from ever gaining enough momentum to use them advantageously.
In general, though, the graphics are pretty good. They won't stun you but they do the job nicely, unlike the music.
The music could very well make your ears bleed. It's not so much that it sounds terrible as much as it sounds like the same song for the entire game. After hearing two hours of the same music clashing with sounds of clanking metal, I was pleased at the crisp 'click' that occurred when I pressed the mute button and turned on the radio.
One of the big drawbacks of Ball Breakers is the difficulty level. A real "glass is half full" comment would be to say that the game rewards the diligent gamer. A more realistic person would say that the game is hard as hell. If you want to get a game that allows you to work out aggression by effortlessly pounding the opposition look, somewhere else. More often than not you'll find yourself lying in a heap on the floor while your enemies dance around the maypole.
Ball Breakers is a new and fun approach to a sports/action game. The fast-paced action and variety of arenas make it perfect for killing some time even if it doesn't deliver the most rewarding gaming experience. The bargain bin $10 price tag makes it a pretty easy buy, too. If nothing else, it's worth having in your collection just so you can laugh at the name every time you read it.