How many internet jokes have the potential to become a video game? And what about TWO video games? There are probably a few examples, but they certainly aren't many. However, a meme known as countryballs managed to pull it off, inspiring a game called Bang-On Balls: Chronicles, an indie platformer featuring spherical characters with their painted faces representing different countries. Does the description ring some bells? Well, countryballs have their own video game now... and we're here to talk about it!
Poland, U Started It
When a group of Polish people came together to paint their country's flag and win a cyberwar on the now-defunct drawball.com website, they never imagined what would come next. That collective joke inspired the creation of Polandball, a doodle character based on a ball with two eyes and Poland's flag colors... although upside down. This character was often used to mock historical events related to that country, mainly Poland's role in the World Wars. Given its popularity, however, the rest of the world started parodying all kinds of political and sports situations using other nations as the protagonist. That started the countryballs meme, with people using these balls to combine all stereotypes of a specific country in a funny way, sometimes adding broken English as an extra ingredient.
In 2016, developer Alien Pixel Studios released Polandball: Can into Space, an indie project for PC and Switch. It has positive reviews on Steam, but it's nowhere near as good or polished—no pun intended—as Bang-On Balls: Chronicles. One looks like a cheap mobile app with some okay jokes here and there whereas the other has impressive graphics and innovative gameplay. So... what's Bang-On Balls about, then?
All Against the Nordics
Exit Plan Games' Bang-On Balls: Chronicles released a couple of weeks ago, and it's still on Early Access, so it only contains the tutorial level and one playable area. Our first destiny is not Center-Eastern Europe (where Poland is, in case geography is not your thing) but Scandinavia, where we must help the British defeat a powerful Viking boss wielding Thor's hammer Mjölnir. Before facing this gigantic boss, we must rescue some captured Britishmen, solve a few puzzles, find several Viking war horns, and destroy all Viking boats on the map.
Despite being the first and only playable level, the Scandinavian map feels enormous and full of Swedish and Danish foes, with lots of things to break and climb. This came as a pleasant surprise to us because to be completely honest, we were not expecting such an interesting map and gameplay when all you can do is jump, stomp, roll, and cover yourself behind your shield. In our favor, the tutorial area does look a little meh, but it is what it is.
Besides fighting a never-ending army of spherical Nordics, you can collect several customization items to make your ball more representative of your country of preference. For example, there's a small area representing the Roman Colosseum where you can defeat a mini-boss to obtain a Roman shield and helmet, but not all cosmetics are locked behind bosses. Solving puzzles and rescuing people could also lead to a new item, although the more badass ones are sold to you. That's why you are encouraged to collect as many blue dots as possible from defeated enemies and hidden treasure chests. Spending 5000 points on a fire sword, for example, is not only cool but necessary, as it gives you a new skill that sets your surroundings on fire every time you stomp on the floor or an object. Just make sure not to die often or, at least, come back to your defeated soul and reclaim what was yours, as you lose half of your blue dots every time you die!
We Can't Wait to Fight the Rest of the World
With the film rolls you collect, you can open your way to new maps. Although currently unavailable, we already unlocked an area that's Japan-themed, so we can imagine ourselves facing a mighty samurai warrior as the final boss. Another one seems to take us to the Moon, and while we can picture the U.S.A. as the main protagonists, maybe the Russians could have something to say?
It's not hard to come up with historical events from all around the world that could work as new levels in future expansions. How about a level dedicated to the Pre-Columbian era, with Mexico (Aztecs), Peru (Incas), and the rest of South America fighting the Spaniards? And wouldn't it be fun to have an African map full of tribes and wild beasts? Or an Australian one? The possibilities are infinite!
In a few weeks, an update will bring a new Roman boss to the Viking map, and by the end of the year we will be able to play the Space Race level, according to the devs' roadmap. We don't know what to expect from these unavailable levels, but we do know we'll be there to explore them as soon as they come out!
Bang-On Balls: Chronicles doesn't rely on countryballs being a meme to attract new players. Instead, it offers beautiful graphics and open maps full of things to do and secrets to discover.
If you want a cheap yet incredibly fun 3D platformer, look no further!