Does this game really get the ball rolling?
It seems so long ago since the time that I played the ageless classic known as ‘Kula World’ on the original Playstation console. The idea of controlling an emotionless ball through an unusual, death defining course is something so simple that you would never think it could be fun. Does Chronovolt bring the ball puzzle legacy into modern times?
Recently developer PlayThree graced the Playstation Vita with their brand new title ‘Chronovolt’ a puzzle/ platformer that sees you control a time travelling ball of fusion power across dangerous tiles and narrow pathways. When initially switching on the game you are going to be presented with some pretty gorgeous art design. PlayThree was definitely blessed with their concept artist who was able to create some gorgeous steam punk characters and set pieces for their opening cutscene. In a way I was excited for what this games design direction was going to entail but what came after was generally a rocky boat of sadness and disappointment.
First of all, Chronovolt’s story is rather bland. In no way will you be finding yourself caring or hating the characters introduced into the plot. This is basically a filler plot that is placed into the puzzler to try and give it more depth, sadly you won’t find any immersion or atmosphere because Chronovolt doesn’t attempt to explain or make any sense as to why you are travelling through the environments that you are going through.
It is a lot of wasted potential and especially seeing as the initial 2D artwork is just so good. The areas you travel to don’t feel inspired by the universe they are trying to create and in a way it suffers because you can’t connect with its world or characters.
Chronovolt doesn’t play that great either, which ruins the experience even more. As I mentioned earlier, the game plays like a top down take on PSX classic ‘Kula World’. You control your metallic ball and attempt to guide it over deadly terrain in the fastest time possible. Depending on how many items you collect and how fast you run through the current course determines your level score at the final screen. These scores then accumulate to give you a rating based on three stars which you collect to then unlock more levels and progress the “story”.
The problem is that the game feels like it is combatting your attempt at finishing the levels as fast as you possibly can because of the cumbersome camera controls along with the incredibly annoying mid-level conversations between characters, which pause the game entirely. This means that your runs can be constantly ruined by the continuous tourette induced conversations of Chronovolt’s cardboard cast.
While Chronovolt is a puzzle game at heart it also has a bag full of generic enemies that you will come across later on in the game that are amusingly annoying and stupid. Not only are the game’s enemies completely dim-witted but sometimes you will just sit there and feel like crying with sadness as you watch enemy balls rolling off cliff edges to their predictable doom. In a way the enemy balls are doing you a favour but the fact that they can’t even navigate properly around corners just screams “rush job” from the developer.
When you aren’t scratching your head at the enemy intelligence though you will be having a little bit of intriguing fun when playing with the games very accurate touch screen controls and time stopping gameplay. If you try and ignore the rating system (I will be explaining this later) you actually find that there is a lot of potential in Chronovolt’s puzzle gameplay in the way that you effect the objects and platforms around you. Sadly that doesn’t stop controlling the ball itself to be an incredible chore. The Chronoball comes with a clam full of handling problems that will easily infuriate the gamer within us all. This is because the environment design is just so poorly thought out at times. Half of the levels platform mechanics are barely introduced at the start of the game, which will ultimately result in you trying to figure out what the obstacle you are trying to use actually does. Not only that but when you actually do figure it out you will have gone through so many deaths in unlocking its secrets that you just won’t be bothered to continue on anymore.
As I brought up previously, Chronovolt’s level progression is constantly based on how many stars you can achieve during each level you complete. Not only is the ball you control infuriatingly slow, PlayThree has made most of the levels three star completions based on luck so you are going to be even more infuriated to learn that all additional ball selections that you can control are based on if you are willing to drop precious moolah in an attempt to make the experience a whole lot easier.
This forces Chronovolt to fall into the potential “Pay to win” category for those gamers that begin to lose their patience with the game. In a way, if you take a step back you will end up seeing the workings of something more like an iOS game. Chronovolt is obviously a low priced game but the fact that the developer decided to cut off the player from any desire to continue through the game for additional content is baffling. The story and gameplay both don’t have a carrot for the player to aim for and instead feels like you are just being bashed with the blunt end of the stick.
Ultimately, Chronovolt is a game that suffers from a select number of poor design choices and ambition that in some ways could have been magnificent if done in a different way. While the art style within its 2D slide show cutscenes maybe great it just leaves a sour feeling in your mouth of a different game that Chronovolt could have become.
If you are looking for a ball and maze type game that tests your patience and beats you down morally in an attempt to use your wallet to win then by all means go for it but this is definitely one ball that’s fate is nothing more than a deflating finish.
Chronovolt is available for download on the Playstation Vita now
For more information, click here.