Copyright/Publisher: Lucasfilm Games/Activision, Programming & Graphics: David Levine,
Sound: Peter Langston, Release Year: 1986,
Genre: Weird Sports, Number Of Players: 1 to 5
Many centuries have passed since the Great Madness, a time when war was at its most
rampant and horrific peak. A multitude of great space battles were both won and lost
but few survived to revel in any glory. That was centuries ago and man has since learned
from his mistakes. Peace now reigns and the only battles fought are those on the grid of
the Ballblazer playfield.
This future sport was one of the few good things to come out of the war and was
actually derived from military training exercises. In preparation for deep space combat,
budding recruits had to get used to the rapid changes In direction of acceleration
experienced when performing manoeuvres in space. This was done in the form of a rigorous
simulation which soon developed into the greatest sport of all time.
Ballblazer is deceptively simple in its conception and appearance. It can be likened
to a futuristic game of football with only two players.
The playfield consists of a grid, 55 squares long and 21 squares wide, with a set of
goalposts, or goalbeams, at both ends and a surrounding electroboundary. The boundary
is invisible to the human eye and is used to keep both player and ball within the grid.
It can also prove a useful aid in play, allowing players to perform such subtleties as
'off the wall' angled shots. The ball, or plasmorb, is a sphere of pure energy that
floats above the surface of the grid. Once it has been injected to the playfield the
battle for possession of the plasmorb is on ...
Both players control a device known as the rotofoil - a form of 'shuttle' with a
surrounding 'pillow' of energy, or forcefield, used to capture,'dribble' and 'shoot'
There are in fact three 'pillows': the first and outermost is the bumpfield,
protecting the rotofoil from all possible external damage. The second field, the
pullfield, is only activated when the plasmorb is within a certain range, where it
automatically draws in and centres the ball. The player can now go for goal.
The innermost field is the pushfield: a touch of the fire button sends the ball
flying forward at high velocity and the rotofoil recoils in the opposite direction.
The pushfield can also be used to blast the ball away from an opponent, leaving it
free for the taking. Rotofoils are controlled with a joystick - left, right, back
and forward all give acceleration in their respective directions while the fire button
activates the pushfield. Turning is computer controlled and gives rise to one of the
rotofoil's most useful and confusing properties - that of roto-snapping.
A rotofoil will always face the ball unless the player in question is actually in
possession, in which case the rotofoil 'snaps' round to face the goal. So too does the
player's view, which can prove incredibly disorientating at first but not so much so
that the concept is never understood.
For every goal scored a certain number of points are given the value depending upon
how far the player is from the goalbeams when the ball passes through them. If, for
instance, the ball is literally pushed through the goal then only a single point is
A maximum of three points can be obtained for an over-the-horizon shot. This is where
the player can't actually see the goalbeams when the ball passes through them -
a difficult or lucky shot? It all depends upon the skill of the player...
Should a total of ten points be scored before the previously determined time limit
expires, the opposition is 'wiped out' and the game is over. If the scores are level
when the timer reaches zero, the game goes into overtime and the first person to score
is declared the winner.
The length of time a game is played over can vary between one and ten minutes,
but wherever you go in the universe, there's only one regulation Ballblazer game -
three minutes, two players, one victor...
There have been some stunning sports simulations released on the 64 this year,
but none of them are in the same class as Ballblazer. The idea is one of the simplest
and most original ever conceived for a computer game - and it works magnificently.
With the exception of the sound, everything about Ballblazer is near perfect.
The graphics are smooth, fast and very effective with nor a splitscreen glitch in sight!
Unfortunately the sound effects are quite weak, but the music is fine and makes up for
this small deficiency.
The nine computer controlled Droids make fierce and compelling competition,
but the two player head to head game holds far more of a lasting interest Ballblazer is
the computer games equivalent of such classic sports as football and tennis, and is
without doubt the best release this year.
Ballblazer is a truly classic game and as a sports simulation it is one of the best to
date. The idea is brilliantly pimple and the presentation is outstanding, Technically,
Ballblazer isn't as impressive as Fractalus or Koronis Rift, but it is certainly
Lucasfilm's most playable game to date. The graphics don't look that amazing when static
and it's only on seeing and feeling them move that the whole effect is brought home.
Ballblazer also includes the best computer opponent I've ever seen in a game.
The different grades provide a decent challenge to any games player, whatever their
level of skill. This is definitely one of THE games of the year and if by any chance
you DO get bored, the cassette inlay scenario should provide some entertainment.
Ballblazer is simply THE one-on-one sports simulation. It's just you, alone, against
another player (whether human, robot or alien makes no difference).
No external interference to worry about - all you have to do is outwit your opponent using
every ounce of skill and reflexes. The graphics are incredibly effective and give a superb
feel of acceleration and speed. I must confess to being very disappointed with the sound -
I'm sure it could have been vastly improved.
To appreciate the game it really has to be played a few times.
The way that the rotofoil snaps round continually can be terribly confusing to some first
time players and the game could well prove off putting to those who 'walk into a shop,
take a quick look and buy' it does take a while to get into, but it's worth it becoming a
truly proficient player will take a long time - it is a sport after all.
Once the basic principles of the game are mastered you can start to work on individual
tactics - it's here that the game really comes into its own. Ballblazer is designed so
that you can find the best way of playing. It's funny really, how the simple games
usually turn out to be the best - Ballblazer certainly one of the simplest and assuredly