Graphics and ContentEl Ballo's graphics are hand drawn and tend to polarize gamers one way or the other. Some find the bright colors and cartoonish animation childish, while others enjoy the unique, artsy style that El Ballo exhibits. All of the animation in the game is well executed and serves as a testament to ProRattaFactor's talent, especially as a first-time developer. Regardless, graphics have always taken a backseat to raw gameplay in arcade games, which is why classics such as Super Mario Brothers, Dark Castle, and Metroid have remained in high demand to this day.
El Ballo's most controversial attribute is its well-publicized adult theme, and actually features full frontal male nudity and near-full female nudity in its cutscenes. Obviously, this is a major concern for any parent, and therefore, it's important to understand the situation more fully. First of all, ProRattaFactor has claimed that "the adult aspects of the game are completely non-sexual," which I found is not true. While the vast majority of El Ballo's cutscenes are completely devoid of any sexual undertones (besides the nudity), there are a few scattered sections in the game that incorporate some sort of sexual reference. While a very young child might not catch the true meaning of this content, I'm fairly certain that if I were eight or ten years old again, I could easily catch the implied meaning behind the dialog, which would probably lead to some very awkward questions.
In order to be able to advertise this game as family friendly, there is a feature that allows concerned parents to lock down the game's adult content via a password. When the game is played in this mode, El Ballo's questionable scenes are replaced with cropped frames or completely different camera shots (you may see a character's head instead of his or her entire body, for example). The dialog is also somewhat modified—some characters have been renamed—for example, El Ballo's girlfriend Butts becomes Buttercup. While I'm still much too young to be a parent, my second concern after "can I lock down the game" would probably be, "can my child get around the password?" The answer is: most definitely yes. All the child has to do to bypass the password is to simply delete the El Ballo preference file, or better yet, move it out of it's folder to play the game and then replace it when he or she is finished. Any reasonably talented child who understands the workings of Mac OS X should have no problem in quickly removing this meager protection. When I set about testing the child protection for this review, it took me less than ten seconds to guess how to get around the password and then remove it.
SoundDespite being advertised as having "over 40 minutes of CD-quality music," El Ballo shares a shortcoming common to most arcade games: repetitive, but (thankfully) unobtrusive music. If you are interested in hearing a sample of the music El Ballo has to offer, you can reach the El Ballo media page here. The same cannot be said about El Ballo's vocal sound effects, which range from childish to bizarre and everywhere in between. Relentlessly punctuating gameplay at every step, the childish taunting, hyperactive giggles, and other unintelligible gibberish is nauseating at first, but slowly becomes more tolerable as the game wears on (perhaps out of exhaustion).
ConclusionTo finish one of the most puzzling game reviews that I have ever undertaken lends a certain sense of relief (and lingering disbelief). It is still unclear to me as to what the developers at ProRattaFactor were thinking when they created a game whose difficulty, attitude, and feel is geared toward a young audience, while incorporating cartoon nudity that would tend to attract an adult audience. Frankly, the result is a combination that seems as if it were designed to drive everyone away except for the few individuals who happen to enjoy El Ballo's wacky style. Older gamers may be attracted by El Ballo's adult humor, but wind up bored and annoyed with its gameplay, while younger gamers may enjoy the gameplay yet be forbidden to play the game by their (justly) concerned parents. As Ivan Milles (owner of ProRattaFactor) states in his recent Inside Mac Games interview: "We're doing this for ourselves, and there are tons of obscure jokes, subtle hints and stuff that no-one is ever going to laugh at." His statement may be truer than he might like.
Overall, El Ballo is a controversial, bland game, despite its use of colorful graphics, language, and storyline. This lack of interesting gameplay is largely due to the fact that it is simply too easy to beat to keep most veteran gamers engaged. I am still curious as to why Ambrosia Software would choose to publish such an unusual title, considering its reputation as a masterpiece powerhouse. If nothing else, this title establishes the technical capabilities of ProRattaFactor, and I hope to see great things from them in the future.
Pros• Unique storyline
• Innovative ice cannon provides a strategic offensive alternative
Cons• Somewhat bland action due to the low difficulty level
• Low replay value due to boring gameplay
• Pervasive, irritating sound effects
• Tasteless nudity scattered throughout cutscenes
• Easily bypassable parental protection