Balls of Steel is a collection of five pinball tables that all feature their own unique theme. Only of of them has Duke Nukem in it however. The rest feature generic characters like scientists, police officers and barbarians. All of them are pretty solid tables and surprisingly still look decent visually. One serious glitch I ran into immediately upon starting was that all the colors were heavily distorted and had tons of screen tearing. Looking through the files and running it via the “bosloader.exe” fixed both these issues, but Steam will no longer know you are playing a game and much less be able to record your playtime. It kind of defeats the purpose of getting the game on Steam and who knows if it will ever be fixed.
Before starting the game you will be able to change the camera to either follow the ball or show the whole table at once. Both choices work well, though I did find the ball to be too tiny when the whole table is in view. Each table has four difficulty modes that change how long the ball saver is active and how many balls you start off with. The first table of the set is the star of the show, Duke, and is based around the first level of Duke 3D. It features the music from E1M1, has sound effects from the game and is voiced by the real voice actor of the Duke himself. You’ll be collecting keycards, splattering monsters and breaking vents. It captures the feel of Duke 3D very well and is a solid table.
The second table called Firestorm is centered around an arsonist setting the town aflame and setting bombs in areas. It is jam packed with detail and has you searching for bombs as well as extinguishing fires. Getting enough points will get you a promotion in the police department and I found it to be the best table in the game. Third map has you fighting a giant slime monster trying to eat everyone in the lab. It has a cheesy “90’s” sci fi vibe and is table I found the most difficult. That difficulty is mostly due to the “ball saved” launcher being aimed right between the flippers, making it difficult to actually put the ball back in play. Your goal is to defeat the monster in order to survive.
Fourth table “Barbarian” is an odd one. It involves a barbarian out to collect the five gem stones and fight beast which sounds well and good but has a pretty strange problem. The normally solid ball physics seem to spaz out on this table and suddenly becomes slower, faster and unpredictable due to glitched physics. Fighting the bosses like ants and tentacles is pretty fun though it is sadly ruined by glitches. The final table is called Darkside and is thankfully not glitched out like the Barbarian table. It is set in a space station under attack and your goal is to fend off the alien menace. There are aliens to splatter, weapons to upgrade and cannons to shoot. Overall all the maps are pretty fun but one is nearly unplayable due to the aforementioned glitches.
There are offline leaderboards that you can use to try to beat your own scores and they are given at a per table basis. After losing at a table you will be able to enter a name to tie with your score though it is extremely sensitive to keystrokes. Holding the key down for more than half a second will cause the game to register it as multiple input presses and that does make it annoying to type your name in. A weird issue to complain about but an issue nonetheless. Aside from the flipper controls, there is also two extra buttons that allow you to either tilt the table left or right. Never found much use for this feature, though abusing it constantly will cause the game to take control away from you, so you lose a ball as punishment for trying to dance with the table.
Music is pretty great all around. Each map has their own song and while the Duke map has by far the best music, the other tables tunes are still pretty catchy. The tables all feature cheesy voice acting that add some comedic value. Balls of Steel is no doubt still a fun game that is unfortunately plagued with technical issues. Whether they are enough to make you avoid this game will vary from reader to reader. Regardless of how much I enjoyed it, I do feel it is too glitchy to recommend to anyone but those already holding nostalgia towards this title. This opinion can easily change if the devs iron out this ancient game of the bugs it has gotten from being brought onto modern operating systems. Will they? Only time will tell, as there have been no news of any patches being worked on.