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Timothy Closs
Arcade: Action
ZX Spectrum 48K
Firebird BleepLoad

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Jonathan Nash
Chris Bourne

On the one hand, there's Agent X. On the other, I, Ball 2. What are we talking about? Music. Agent X's five channel 48K theme music (which really sounds as if it was composed for a film or something) is the smartest piece of sound on the Speccy. I, Ball 2's title track is the worst. A completely crap melody with odd 'drum', er, 'beats' thrown in at random, it's guaranteed to reduce passers-by to tears.

Luckily a quick stab at the fire button starts the game instead. (Phew.) Breaking with the tradition of sequels, it's substantially different to the scrolling original. Here, the ball with the I has to bounce around twenty single-screen levels, shooting things and finding valuably informative ball artefacts. Yup, basically, you play a rotund archaeologist with a gun.

'Insanely difficult' is the phrase that leaps to the lobes when describing I, Ball 2. To enjoy the game, firstly throw away the instructions. Secondly, adjust to the unnervingly random way you progress through the levels. (When you complete screen one, it doesn't necessarily follow you'll go on to screen two.) Then spend ages on a screen and get killed about six hundred times before you twig certain things only happen at certain times. For example, objects blocking passageways tend to explode at t minus seventy seconds (as those nice chaps at NASA have it). Next, take a course in muscular control. The game is awash with inertia, momentum and other gravitational features, and often urges you to bounce through through gaps that would tax an outrageously malnourished silverfish. But at least it's fair, in an unforgivingly harsh sort of way. This doesn't stop you from shouting juicier alternatives to the game's sampled 'Oh no!', but that's by-the-by. It's a game I'd pay good money for (actually I already have), but if you decide the same be prepared for some battering of heads against desks, both of these preferably being your own.

Uppers: 'Challenging', different and smartly programmed. Downers: it's very, very hard. Splendid fun, but crap for the nerves.


Screenshot Text

Open-mouthed people saying nothing, exits blocked on all sides... Symbolic, you know. Of something or other.

How to irritate Shirley Bassey, Lesson Six. 'Diamonds are forever, forever, forever...' How can you tell, then?