I’ve been following the fortunes of the wonderful indie game company Mommy’s Best Games for many years now. Way back in their early days on the XBOX 360, with quirky and original takes on the shoot ‘em up genre. Titles like Shoot 1 UP, Game Type and Weapon of Choice put MBG in the frame as a developer you could trust to bring the quality yet at the same time bring you an enjoyable but utterly bizarre experience. It still applies to this day with their latest title Pig Eat Ball, a game that has been over 5 years in the making. Is it fun? Yes. Is it bizarre? Absolutely! But is it any good?
Read on to find out.
Development for Pig Eat Ball began around 2013. I’ve been following the development closely and recall the beginnings fondly. Work started around the time I published my Pink Bullets zine the same year. Top bloke Nathan Fouts was so kind as to grant help me out with a feature on MBG for my zine. It was interesting to see that this time around MBG were not developing a traditional shoot ‘em up, but an action puzzler. Fast forward to 2019 and it is a delight to see a project the team have worked so hard on finally come to fruition.
Pig Eat Ball is available on PS4, XBOX and Steam for PC’s. It is also available on the Nintendo Switch, which is the version I am reviewing here. I’ll be honest with you as well, I think the Switch is the platform this game is most suited to out of all of them. More on this later.
Set across five worlds and several hundred levels in the Space Station Kingdom, the game plays like a mix between a puzzler, a sports game (playing tennis and interacting with the different world environments for example) and an adventure title. I kept getting vibes of games like Gauntlet and Arkanoid for some reason! Each world is open for you to explore. As you traverse each map, you’ll find areas are sealed off until you complete missions and gather enough pearls to open up the next portion of the map. Completing missions results in a bronze, silver or gold grade. So if you want to really complete the game 100% then there is the lure of an all-gold clearance for those with irrepressible OCD!
Visually the game is presented in the (am I allowed to say?) traditional Mommy’s Best Games style. Meaning a mix of crazy ideas and designs and retina-shattering colour schemes. Everything is so bright and zany and wild and carefree. It’s something MBG regulars have come to expect, but for new comers it may feel like being slapped across the eyes with a couple of Wham! bars. If I were to nitpick just a little, some of the visuals do look a little jagged and ragged. A touch of clean up here and there would sort it. It’s more noticeable on the title and menu screens. Not a major criticism but worth pointing out all the same. Additionally, the title and menu screens do look just a little basic. Granted it’s not something that makes or breaks the game, after all the menus are simple but contain everything you would want. It’s just presentation-wise it is a little basic and lacking. After creating such a visually wonderful game, a bit more polish on the presentation would’ve been the icing on the cake (pun unintended).
Same applies to the audio. It’s packed full of funky and functional effects, especially the toe-curl-inducing vomit noises! This is complemented with lovely, bouncy and jolly sonics that work perfectly with the overall style of the game.
What of the game itself? You take on the role of Princess Bow, daughter of King Cake, who has declared whomever wins his contest will be deemed worthy enough to marry his daughter. However, as Princess Bow you have other ideas and set out to win the contest yourself!
It’s not as straight-forward as that though. You need to clear each map segment by collecting tennis balls. Sounds easy right? Well, no it isn’t! Each tennis ball you eat will fatten you up. Get too fat and you won’t be able to fit through the door to the next map segment or a specific area you need to complete to clear the map. This is where the game throws in the wonderful mechanic of…VOMIT! Yes, you read that right. Vomiting up tennis balls will turn them green and shrink you back down to size. It will also help with defeating specific enemies. So important is the vomit mechanic, that it’s not uncommon to see entire worlds absolutely covered in the stuff!
In some areas though you will be battling stage bosses, mid-stage bosses or simply completing tasks against the clock. The quicker you complete any of these, the better pearl result you will get. The better result you get the more essential it is to opening the next segment and/or world. The element of disguise also comes in to play. Change your appearance to get you through tricky segments while also enhancing your abilities.
You would think that would be all, yet Pig Eat Ball continues to deliver. There are extra modes of play including a 4 player party mode and a level editor (complete with option to share your designs). Unfortunately the latter is missing in the Switch version which is a shame. Also I have no friends so I didn’t get to try out 4 player mode, though from what I’ve read the multiplayer mode has proven to be a big hit, especially at games expos.
Pig Eat Ball crams so much in to a fun little indie package that it feels like something that would roll off the line at a big budget house. The beauty really lies in it’s simplicity. By not over-complicating things, and wrapping it all up in a fun, vibrant and creative package Pig Eat Ball ends up a rousing success. I know what a labour of love this project was for the team at Mommy’s Best Games and to see the end results is very satisfying.
A couple of visual and presentation quips aside, I do feel the game could be a little more encouraging in the puzzle side of things. It’s not always entirely clear what is expected of you in order to progress. Yes, that’s the point of a puzzle game, however in some areas clues can be so vague that you are left scratching your head wondering what exactly it is you need to do. This leaves you open to exploring aimlessly for ages until you stumble across a resolution.
Pig Eat Ball is a great little game that will keep you going for hours. Simple, colourful and fun. The pick up and play feeling the game gives off makes the Switch feel like a perfectly-suited platform, it’s just a bit of a shame the level editor is missing. Fanboy-gushing for MBG aside, this is a game I have no doubts about recommending. If you feel like you would get more out of the level editor though, you may be better off with the Steam version. Get this game, it’s a good ‘un!
Disclosure: A download code was supplied to me by Mommy's Best Games for this review.