Bug Ball

Last month, I stumbled upon an Xbox Live Indie Game with beautiful pre-rendered graphics, online play, and a sense of whimsy that could earn the seal of approval from Disney.  Seriously, Bug Ball is just so damn cute I want to hug it and kiss it and love it forever.  Of course, I do so at the risk of infecting myself with leprosy.  As it turns out, the name of the game is quite appropriate.

Ever wonder what the enemies in Pikmin do when Olimar wasn't around? Now you know.

The idea is basically “A Bug’s Life” meets volleyball.  You play as various bugs.  A ball falls.  You want to hit it towards your opponent and hope they don’t return it.  The controls operate like a non-sporting platform game.  A jumps, B does a “spike” jump (which catches the ball and throws it), and the triggers dash to the left and right.  As a fun fact, the original build of the game always had the right trigger going the direction your bug was facing and the left trigger always had it go in the opposite direction.  Well, apparently anyone could recognize how this could be impossible to get the hang of.  Well, anyone but the guys behind Bug Ball.  Thankfully, Brian and I were on the case.  You see, we were unable to fully play Bug Ball due to some severe online glitches, and informed the developers that I would hold off on reviewing their game until some fixes were in.  And then, while they were at it, they should clear up some of the issues with movement as well.

And they did.  Edible Entertainment took on our suggestions exactly as we said them, removing 90% of the stuff I planned on complaining about in this review.  The jumping physics are spot on.  The quick-dash is vastly improved.  When the game is playable, it’s a damn fun experience, and an easy leaderboard contender.  Mostly because it keeps things simple and focused on delivering the most entertaining possible experience.  It embraces its fantasy-sports persona and uses it.  Imagine if a real volleyball game (bore-ring) started tossing extra balls into play that the teams had to keep track of as well.  That happens in Bug Ball.  If the ball comes in contact with a spiny thingie that walks across the ceiling, it splits in two, with each ball now counting against your score.  Ah, but the spiny bug thingie can appear again to further split the ball.  Brian and I had volleys with a half-dozen balls in play all at once.  And trust me when I say, our smiles were never bigger.

Unfortunately, Bug Ball is still besieged with glitches.  Most of them are firmly stuck in online play, so if you’re playing local-only, you’re sure to have a blast.  Maybe the game is a little bit too anal about what constitutes the ball hitting the ground, but otherwise things run smoothly.  Online, shit gets pretty buggy.  It’s not as bad as it once was, where the ball would often go invisible to everyone but the game’s host.  Having said that, I was able to cause the game to “lag out” simply by playing close to the net.  Or by tapping the A button to float in the air.  Or by taking too long to serve the ball.  Or by dashing around before the ball is served.  Or by using the “spike” jump to bounce on and off the ceiling.  Or if more than two balls enter the play field.  Come to think of it, online Bug Ball seems to have problems when you do anything but play the most basic of game with it.

I can only work with the assets I'm given, and for whatever reason the developers decided to post a static shot of the courts on the Marketplace page without any of the action going on. Guys, be more choosey. These pictures could be your one and only chance at making an impression on potential buyers. For the record, the graphics totally hold up in gameplay. These static shots made me think the graphics would suck. They don't, but if I didn't know that I would guess the developers were hiding something.

It’s such a shame, because when Bug Ball worked, it was one of the best times I’ve had playing an Xbox Live Indie Game.  It’s not particularly deep, and it probably won’t excite the type of crowds who expect some kind of six-hour long epic for their $1.  At Indie Gamer Chick, my only criteria has always been “be fun.”  Bug Ball is amazingly fun.  Maybe it’s a call to developers that they should get back to basics.  Drop all the pretentious fluff and filler and accentuate the actual gameplay.  Work it.  Refine it.  Don’t settle for “good enough.”  Strive to be better than all the rest.  If you’re going to put in a half-assed effort, stop developing for XBLIG and go fiddle-fart around with someone who shares your don’t-give-a-shit attitude.  I hear Sega is hiring.

Bug Ball was developed by Edible Entertainment

80 Microsoft Points said more like Buggy Ball.  Nah, that makes it sound like a version of soccer played by Volkswagens in the making of this review.

A review copy of Bug Ball was provided by Edible Entertainment to Indie Gamer Chick.  The copy played by Kairi was purchased by her with her own Microsoft Points.  The review code was given to someone else to provide her with a proper online experience.  That person was not involved at all in the writing or editing of this review.  For more information on this policy, please consult the Indie Gamer Chick FAQ.


About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

7 Responses to Bug Ball

  1. Those screenshots make it look like a game about growing a flower. It’s very strange to choose pictures that contain nothing of the actual game.

    • Kairi Vice says:

      Yea I didn’t get it myself. Even in motion, with actually gameplay going, the graphics hold up very well, with limited to no slowdown. One would think they would want to show it off.

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  5. Wow nice trailer, all I see is: “This video contains content from The Orchard Music and EMI, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.”

    • Rik Swift says:

      Works fine in the UK, must be a Canadian thing. EMI must be fucking keen on copyright law, Grieg has been dead for over a century so I doubt he gives a shit!

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