Just because an item is indigestible doesn’t mean it’s not tasty. Tennis balls, as it turns out, may be the single most delicious sports-related item ever made. Princess Bow finds them completely irresistible and will suck down any she comes across, but with the effect that they sit inside making her a little bigger with each one consumed. On the plus side, a little bit of deeply unhealthy purging sees the princess back to her original svelte-ish form, and it’s hard to beat the effectiveness of a barf-covered tennis ball in both damage potential and gross-out factor to whatever it hits.
Pig Eat Ball is a deeply weird semi-arcade adventure about a pig-princess stuck on a space station trying to win her own hand in marriage. Her father, King Cake, has decreed that whoever wins the contest gets to marry the princess and she’s not having any of it. Meanwhile, as she works her way through the hundreds of levels, the enraged pipe-smoking monkey known as The Dean is aware of King Cake’s dark secrets and is working to expose them. Princess Bow has her work cut out for her, but determination and an endless hunger are weapons of terrible power when used properly.
The Pig Eat Ball demo starts simply enough but there’s a world of mechanics hiding in its three-button control scheme. Princess Bow is continually… um… sucking, as indicated by the airflow from her snout (he said, keeping it professional), but this is interrupted by a couple of actions. Inhaling a ball stops the sucking action (yes, really) for a second, while using the dash knocks it out while she moves at top speed. There’s also a specific Stop Sucking button as well, for those moments when you just can’t give a suck. The last button is for barfing, causing Princess Bow to let loose a torrent of green goo and tennis balls that have the logical effect of stunning anything they hit. A tennis ball may not be a deadly implement, but covered in barf? That’s going to take a moment to recover from.
Initially the levels are set up to hammer down the basics, but it doesn’t take long for new mechanics to get introduced. One-way gates, destructible walls, conveyor belts, and jump pads are fairly standard toys, but combine that with different tiles that block either the princess or tennis balls, or numbered tiles that increment when you walk on them and need to match to create a passage, and you suddenly have a nice selection of arcade puzzles to work through. The demo is small eighteen-level taste of the much larger game ahead, but contains a nice variety of level toys and mechanics to keep each level different from the others. There are even Q-Bert and Pac-Man tribute levels in the mix, complete with very familiar enemies roaming their corridors.
Pig Eat Ball is a little gross and filled with odd characters who are just a bit off, like the mustached clams that are the gatekeepers of the levels, and Princess Bow herself is one of the weirdest protagonists in recent memory. It’s also bursting with ideas and feels like it’s only scraped the surface of the weirdness to come. Each level is something different, revealing a new wrinkle to the gameplay, and that doesn’t even touch the included multiplayer modes. Some mechanics are obvious and clearly explained, like needing to barf out balls to slim down and fit through tight gaps, while others are left to the player to discover, like needing to get big enough on tennis balls to carry around a bowling ball you can shoot to clear the pins in front of a passageway. Pig Eat Ball is a game that looks to never settle down from one moment to the next, constantly switching up its formula and providing a new challenge while descending a little deeper into weirdness with each new level.