The Nintendo Switch eShop continues to grow near daily. The quality does vary but some of this generation’s greatest titles quietly appeared without warning on the storefront. Likewise, a fair amount of titles that would benefit from more development time or a non-release also show up there. How does Balancelot fair as it coasts onto the eShop?
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy took the community by storm in 2017. The simplistic combination of physics, obstacles and wackiness hit at a time that the world needed to step away from photorealistic graphics and ray-tracing technologies. Now, near 4 years later, Balancelot arrives to ride the proverbial coattails. Unfortunately, that statement alone sums up this experience. Conceptually, Balancelot is a blend of Getting Over It, with just a dash of Trials. This, while intriguing on paper, is a mess in execution. Selecting one of the two playable characters (more available later) you must balance (it’s in the name) and joust your way to fame all while staying upright on your unicycle. No, that was not a typo, this game is played in its entirety from the perspective of a medieval knight too poor to afford a steed so he must joust his away atop a unicycle.
Visually, Balancelot is at its high point
Soft pastel colours evoke paintings from the time. The simplistic animation, to an extent, evokes memories of marionette puppet shows that we studied while trying to stay awake during History class. By no means is this going to blow your mind, but considering where we have to go from here it’s important to point out a positive early.
Control-wise, where to start?
Trials is tough and fair. Upgrading your bike, learning the weights and nuance of each class feels organic and right. Balancelot, however, feels wonky and broken. Movement is handled via the L & R with balancing your character mapped to the left stick. You can jump with B (hop) and thrust your lance with Y. That’s it. On paper this is easy, pick up and play fun. The problems lie in the actual feel of the game. The speed does not feel tied to balance and vice versa. Often we felt our character flopped in the wrong direction especially in terms of how real physics would come into play. Everything ends up feeling overly loose which breaks immersion but also your patience. Jumping never feels right as some trend toward moon physics and others feel like you have a bad of rocks attached to your hip. Navigating the small death trap-filled levels shouldn’t take long but is artificially drawn out due to the poor controls.
Audibly, Balancelot is no better
On the surface, the music does fit the tone but barely. The overall lack of variety just wears thin. This is not as crucial but feels like a missed opportunity. The ability to create the illusion of immersion via audible cues would have only benefited this title. The generic SFX serves as filler more than a proper addition and never attempts to engage the player.
On the whole, Balancelot is just not good. The concept is solid and there very well could be a decent bit of fun to be had but it’s just not here. A multiplayer battle mode, tighter controls, upgradable unicycles, customisation All of these components are missing and would have easily helped out this hollow shovelware title.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 22/01/2021
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Platform
Developer: AnvilBird Interactive, Ratalaika Games
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop