This is a review update following a second play of the game. The original review can be found at the end.
The first time I played this I was intrigued by the art, but felt let down by the controls and gameplay. After a response from the dev, I felt I owed this game a second try.
Ballpoint Universe is a game that's hard to put into words. The art style is certainly unusual, so I'll start with that. It's ... weird. Not what I'd call beautiful, but it's fascinating. I think it could turn some people off. But why play cookie cutter games that are just like all the others? I applaud the makers of this game for doing something visually so different.
The gameplay is another weird one. To drop straight into the game with no expectations was, in my experience, a bit brutal. Or rather, I had different expectations. The game is essentially a side-scrolling shooter, with basic platforming elements that connect missions into a storyline. While the art styles match, the gameplay is radically different. Jarring, even. It doesn't help that the default controls are really terrible. Practically unplayable. If you're going to play this, I strongly recommend you use keyboard for the platforming sections and mouse control for the spaceship missions. It handles rather well that way.
Another part I had trouble with was ship add-ons. Those little black silhouettes in the bottom right can actually be scrolled through and bought. I played for ages thinking the game was going to unlock them for me, which led to some tiresomely long missions with my underpowered ship.
It could be easy for someone to play this game and think it's awful. The alternative artwork, the odd mix of gameplay, the default controls. But going into it with a bit of knowledge helps a lot, and I found on the second day of playing that it really wasn't too bad. It's definitely not for everyone, but there's more good here than bad.
Very interesting art style. It reminded me of And Yet It Moves. It's always great to see games pushing boundaries of visual styles, but unfortunately the game is let down by the actual gameplay. It's basically a bunch of side-scrolling shooting games, all very similar, tied together with a platforming narrative that only exists to move from one shooting mission to the next. Decent music.
The controls are pretty bad. I played in windowed mode, and the character moves at different speeds depending on how far the mouse pointer is. But the mouse isn't bound to the window, which is a staggering oversight. Also, clicking on the menu button in the top right corner means your character runs to the right before you can click on it. I don't know how they thought this was a good idea. Fortunately I have Display Fusion so I was able to lock the pointer to the window, but I can't imagine the game would be even slightly playable in windowed mode without this.
Overall, a visually interesting game that is focused too much on art and not enough on gameplay and fun. Maybe it's just too arty for me and I don't "get it", but I really can't recommend it.