'H3H3 Ball Rider' Review: Great Concept, Bogged Down with Memes

4.5/10 (Android)

The web has democratized celebrity, allowing the viewer hive mind the opportunity to choose their own idols. To some, YouTubers are the modern tastemakers and trend setters, pushing content that reaches millions of eyeballs. Maverick and Team 10 merchandise (from the Paul brothers) is worn in middle schools by the same kids who in past generations would have worn Abercrombie & Fitch. It's a new world where daily uploads and algorithms are part of our daily lives.

H3H3Productions is the YouTube channel of Ethan and Hila Klein, a married couple who became internet famous for making reaction videos. Ethan sitting in front of a camera and commenting on videos ranging from TLC specials to internet oddities have racked up tens of millions of views online. What started as random videos made by two lovebirds in their apartment in Israel quickly ballooned to an online phenomenon with their own dedicated fandom and memes.

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Look at all that freemium currency! Outerminds

Since then, they've started a podcast, the Teddy Fresh merchandise line, a cameo DLC in Payday 2 and most recently, their own mobile game. H3H3 Ball Rider was developed by Outerminds, the same company that made Pewdiepie's Legend of the Brofist. It's a free-to-play mobile game where Hila rockets Ethan's spherical, sweaty body as far as possible through a series of mazes and obstacles.

Ball Rider is freemium mobile game that relies heavily on memes and references from H3H3's history. "Papa Bless" and "Vape Nation" are uttered by Ethan over and over ad nauseum. The game also loves to send you push notifications, requires a constant internet connection and is highly addicting. There are chests with skins and power-ups that take hours to open unless you're willing to watch an ad to speed up the process. The game does ask very nicely for permission if it can use your information in its targeted advertising, which most other mobile games don't do.

In their release video on the channel, the pair acknowledge the absurdity saying "the premise is ridiculous, but the game is actually fun." The H3H3 subreddit disagreed, with many shocked that this ad was the first video they uploaded to their channel in months. "The game is mediocre at best and loaded with predatory loot boxes and microtransactions," jh4rdc0r3 wrote. "As a years-long H3 die hard, this is so sad and disappointing."

Others were a bit more welcoming. "If YouTube stops demonetizing content for ridiculous reasons maybe good content creators will start producing again," wrote reconrose.

YouTubers like KeemStar and PewDiePie have slapped their names on mobile games which have been highly successful. You can't blame H3H3 for trying this, but it does feel a bit like they've become a living meme. H3H3 have been making videos for years and some of their targets have started to embrace the joke. PrankInvasion added "great kisser" to his Twitter profile and JoeySalads has moved away from racist fake pranks and become a regular on the podcast. Ethan and Hila are stuck in the shadow of "Vape Nation" and I don't think they are ever getting out.