capsule review

The Adventures of El Ballo

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Side-scrolling action games have been around for decades, so it’s kind of hard to break out of the genre in totally new and original ways. I have to hand it to ProRattaFactor that it’ found a new way: Use ribald, crude humor throughout its game, The Adventures of El Ballo. The underpinning technology used to make the game was quite good and I hope ProRattaFactor does more with it in the future.

First, if you’re easily offended by scatology or mild profanity, stop reading here. There. You've been warned.

Published by Ambrosia Software, The Adventures of El Ballo is a classic side-scroller made especially for Mac OS X. It takes place in the Circular Assmosphere system, where the evil Doctor Cough is subjecting the denizens of planet Testicular to a world-wide physical.

That’s where you come into play. See, you’re El Ballo, “the most unsanitary of them all,” and you’ve been sent on a quest to foil the Doctor’s plans. Along with your friends Butts and Boobs, you must find and defeat the vile Doctor Cough.

Now, I’m the guy who called Running With Scissors’ vile romp Postal 2 “rude, crude, and socially unacceptable,” but still declared it “sick and twisted fun.” So I won’t castigate ProRattaFactor for keeping its head in the toilet, though I know that The Adventures of El Ballo’s focus on potty humor has kept the game out of the mainstream.

At its core, The Adventures of El Ballo is cut from the same cloth as Super Mario Brothers and so many other games of that ilk—you run from side to side, jump up on platforms, unlock simple puzzles, blast foes and collect goodies. The game unfolds over more than two dozen levels, and as you progress you gain access to new weapons and have to face off against new enemies.

There are a few interesting novelties at work here. One is the artwork in the game—the entire game has an enormously appealing hand-drawn look to it, using cel shaded-style graphics. Animation is good, sound effects are perfunctory, and the soundtrack is excellent (in fact, you can buy it separately from if the mood fits).

Another twist is El Ballo’s ability to see perches when he stands still. This is handy at points in the game where it’s not immediately obvious where he can walk or run to, such as climbing a cliff wall or jumping from the edge of one platform to another.

The game engine uses some nifty OpenGL effects and does this neat scaling trick (zooming you in close when the situation warrants it). There’s a lot here to like. There’s even gamepad support.

In the end, though, the game play left me a bit wanting. It just wasn’t a lot of fun. But don’t take my word for it, download the demo and try for yourself.

As absurd as it sounds, a game called “The Adventures of El Ballo” even features a password-protected family friendly mode, which replaces some of the graphics and art with less risque goods. (In addition to some questionable character and place names, The Adventures of El Ballo occasionally features some mild cartoon nudity).

The game is Intel-compatible, according to Ambrosia, but not Intel-native.

The bottom line

Neat art, great music and solid game engine aside, gameplay in The Adventures of El Ballo is, well, a bit limp.

Graphic entertainment Among the nifty OpenGL effects in The Adventures of El Ballo is a scaling trick that zooms you in on the action when the situation warrants it.
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