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Domark Ltd
1990
Arcade: Action
£9.99
£3.99
English
ZX Spectrum 128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

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18,19
David Wilson
Chris Bourne

Since the dawn of creation man has pondered three all-important questions... 'What is the meaning of life?', 'What came first, the chicken or the egg?' and 'How on earth do you play American Football?'. Well, if you think today's version of the game is complex just wait ill the 21st century! It's become so violent that humans don't want to play anymore! Oh no, instead it's the poor robots who take their place (and the pasting!). And this is what Cyberball is all about!

If you're not that familiar with American footie, here's a brief synopsis... Huge teams of humans run about in a game broken into several plays. Each consists of four 'downs'. Each down is an attempt to keep possession of the ball and move it up the field ten yards. Fail at your fourth attempt (Or 'down'? Ed) (Right, you're getting the hang of it!) and you lose possession to your opponents. Cyberball is played by huge teams of massive metal robots (or in the case of the Speccy by teams of seven monochrome robot sprites). The rest is similar, except that as an added incentive to gain the ten yards the ball is timed to explode!!! Eek!

Now, in each down you have to choose a 'play' (or routine) for your team to perform and there are loads of them depends on whether you're defending or attacking. You have a time limit in which to choose these plays (which is nowhere near long enough to figure out exactly what you should be doing!).

Right, into the gameplay, the pitch scrolls vertically up and down with the action and the teams move likewise (but slowly) chasing the ball. By clicking the fire button you can choose which player to control in defence. In attack you first control the receiver. From the 'play' you've selected, you'll have several options for places to throw the ball, and these will be marked by crosses on the screen. Your robots will start to move toward these as play begins. the ball goes to your receiver and then you choose which cross to throw the ball to. As soon as it's thrown, his cross is highlighted and you take control of the robot nearest to it. Move over it, catch the ball and then leg it toward the goal line pronto! Do this enough times and you win the game (and get lots of cash). Simple, isn't it? Er... no. It's actually very complicated.

In two-player games you're both on the same team, one catching and one passing. There's a limited amount of sound, the nicest bit being the sort of static noise that approximates to cheering as you kick off. There are lots of subtleties here including robots with different speeds and damaged robots not performing so well, but none of this is really apparent on the Speccy because of the jerky gameplay. Still, all this having been said, after I'd persevered I was actually able to make some progress! (Gasp! Ed) Here's Davey's trusty tip - instead of throwing the ball away as soon as you get it (like I used to do when we played rugby at school), you should make the receiver hold onto it for a but until your players are in the right place to catch the pass.

Anyway, Cyberball sounded like a great idea for a game, but I'm afraid that Domark could well have been a trifle over-ambitious with the Speccy version. With the memory limitation, of course, the teams are both monochrome (although your opponents area is a bit darker), and the gameplay is a tad on the slow side. I suppose it's quite a specialist game. I mean even if you like the idea of small monochrome robots bashing each other, you still need to get to grips with the rules of American footie!

Nice idea but far too ambitious for the humble Spec. Die-hard fans could get some fun out of it.

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This cross marks one of the possible places you pass to (but best to be sure there's a robot waiting to catch it before you do!).

This is one of your speeding little 'running back' robots. Pass the ball to him and he'll be the ideal bod to whizz up-field with it. (I wish I was 'running back' home for tea and away from this very complicated game.)

This humanoid chap is the quarterback. He receives the ball when it's first 'hut-hutted' out from between the 'legs' of the big robot in the 'scrimmage line' in front of him. (Can I go home now, Matt?)

And these are all the opposing team robots you've got to avoid. (Big, aren't they?)

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Blimey! Just what is going on here? Don't ask me who's got the ball, I'm only the quarterback!

Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to choose one of these 'plays' in about nine seconds, and memorise what on earth is supposed to happen when it's put into practice!!

But before you do that though you're going to have to choose between running plays and passing plays (whatever they are). Hmm. I'm stuck.