Ballpoint Universe by Arachnid Games is an intriguing title in its own right; with art done entirely in ballpoint pen and good old-fashioned arcade action wrapped in some RPG-style story, there’s a lot that this great little game has to offer. Throw in the extras offered with the Steam Greenlight-released Ballpoint Universe: Infinite, and you’ve got hours of endless doodle mayhem and fun.
The setting of the game is within the doodles all of us have probably made at some point in time; scribbled drawings in margins, notebook pages full of meaningless time-killer art. In the world of Ballpoint Universe, these creations come to life through the Idea Well, and are soon conscripted in the war against the imposing Logicians – representations of all that is mundane and cold. While our hero, Doodle, traverses the village quite a bit, the real action takes place in an arcade shooter-style segment as Doodle is launched, in a customizable ship, to wage war on the enemy and save doodlekind.
Collecting Ink along the way to purchase weapons, ship enhancements, or upgrades for pieces already owned, Doodle’s ship becomes more and more formidable over time, with a number of melee and ranged weapons to choose from. Other upgrades increase health, offer auto-firing enemy-seeking missiles, or provide protection from enemy fire. The game’s Infinite mode allows an unending supply of enemies to cut through to collect Ink, making upgrades easily accessible should the player find themselves up against missions that prove too difficult with current equipment.
Ballpoint Universe‘s story takes place through conversations with the other drawings of the Village; ranging from drill-sergeant recruiters to simple townsfolk looking for help, these friendly creations guide Doodle along his way. As you delve further into the village, a vast 2D landscape with bridges connecting multiple “layers”, the missions become more difficult and more rewarding as you assist the doodles in their seemingly-hopeless war against the Logicians. The dialogue is short but sweet, making sure you spend more time in the action of the game than in the in-betweens.
Its mechanics are solid; I played with mouse controls, which are a bit awkward in the village , but very good and responsive for the action portions. I switched to keyboard a few times during village segments, just to get into places that were tougher to reach. There’s some solid sound design, but really, Ballpoint Universe‘s strongest suit is very obviously the quirky, fantastical artwork. While sometimes a bit confusing because of its chaotic design, for the most part things are clearly defined enough to sort out what it is you’re doing, and where you’re headed. In the end, I found Ballpoint Universe: Infinite to be an addicting, stylish title, and an absolute steal in terms of value at a scant $4.99 ($2.99 on sale as of this writing!)
[+Wonderful, unique visuals] [+Tight action controls] [+Meaningful ship customization options] [+Hours of gameplay at minimal price] [-Village controls could use work]