Activision Inc
1986
Arcade: Shoot-em-up
£7.99
£1.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes

18
Chris Bourne

Far flung into the future is a world whose main pastime is spectatorship of a sport kown as Sal/blazer. This computer simulation duplicates as closely as possible the thrills, spills, rules and regulations of the famous future sport. Activision market it and it is imaginatively called Ballblazer. Relying heavily upon the technology of the day, each player is strapped within a ground craft called a rotofoil, a machine that land travels over the grid where the action takes place. On an extremely simple level Ballblazer can be described as football on a green and white chessboard.

Here are two goals on the grid, one at each edge of the field, and the overall aim is to blast a floating footy, (the plasmorb) through your opponent's goalmouth. Your Rotofoil is like a great big foot that can kick and dribble the ball over the green and white terrain using a carefully controlled magnetic field that surrounds it. When the plasmorb is in proximity of a rotofoil's field it contorts to surround the object and then becomes the possesion of that player. The trouble with having an enveloped plasmorb is that it saps energy from your main supply, maximum speed becomes slightly less than it previously was. That's dribbling kicking is a different matter. Placing a sweaty thumb upon the fire button inverts the rotofoil's bumpfield. The previously enveloped orb now rapidly whines off to the horizon as the bumpfield whiplashes. That's kicking, it 's disadvantage is that since every action has a reaction (you ask any scientist called Newton) you and your rotofoil react by flying away in the opposite direction.

To make finding the plasmorb on the very large grid easier, a little box of circuitry always orientates the rotofoil to point as closely as it can to the ball. The rotofoil has its restrictions though and one of them is that it's only able to face in one of four directions, the same directions that you can move over the grid. Still, the black box performs the best comprise it can given the limitations superimposed upon it. When ball is in possession the same little directional computer points the 'foil straight at the appropriate goal.

That explains Ballblazer with only one competitor but two are supposed to take part, be it human against human or human against droid. With two players the main problem is for the person without the plasmorb to get it and this is done by a combination of dodgem caring and field inverting. Even without a plasmorb, the burnfield can be activated and used as a sort of fist. Punch the ball into the open grid out of the opponent's magnetic embrace and it becomes property of the first player to reach it the equivalent of a tackle.

A split screen is provided, showing each player's point of view through the rotofoil's windscreen. The grid runs off into the horizon in perspective and as the rotofoil is moved around the grid behaves as it should do in real life. The plasmorb and opposing ' foil are both shown in proper perspective and relative size respective to how close you are to them.

Between the two views is a score line showing time left to the end of the bout (a standard game is three minutes long) and each opponents' score. At the end of the three minutes the player who has dominated the most of the line is winner. A goal produces a score and the amount depends upon how far away the posts were the ball struck true. For an over the horizon shot three points are awarded.

CRITICISM

'Oh well I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything as cod as the Atari version, but at least I thought it would be quite good. Lucasfilms' first try out on the Spectrum is not a complete success, they seem to have thrown caution to the wind and just made it look nice and pretty - unfortunately they forgot about the gameplay and achieved a very simplified version. Through the translation I realised that there wasn't too much to the game to start with. The sound is pretty appalling with a wry low tune which vibrates the Spectrum speaker terribly. The way the ball swings around in front of you is very good but doesn't make up for the screen glitches. The speed of the game is very slow and I didn't swing in my chair at all, which means something big has been missed out. I couldn't honestly recommend you to buy it'

'Ballblazer doesn't exactly strike me as the most competitive sport in the known universe as it's hardly mega-brill; I've heard a lot about the Atari and Commodore versions, and in comparison, the Spectrum version seems to be a bit of a letdown. The colour is lavishly used, at the expense of the whole screen changing colour at times. Things happen quickly, and on the higher levels, it gets pretty hectic. It isn't such a bad game, but not so great either'

'I first saw Ballblazer on the Atari yonks ago and it was about the best Atari game around then. Sadly, I can't really say that it has survived the conversion onto the Spectrum. Most of the original's good points, sound etc, have been left behind for obvious reasons, now all that remains is a fairly average, speedy arcade game with a rough tune and dubious graphics. On my first few goes I was sure that something really special would come to light which would make this game doubly playable, unfortunately it didn't. The effect of the ground moving is very good even though it is a little garish at times, but, as with most games with fast graphics, all the characters flicker horribly. I wasn't really compelled to carry on playing this one as it gets fairly monotonous after a while.'

COMMENTS
Control keys
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Keyboard play: no problems
Use of colour: pretty, but lots of clashes
Graphics: neat scrolling, but a bit glitchy
Sound: a bit buzzy, but nice
Skill levels: 9
Screens: scrolling playfield
General Rating: A neat reaction game which somehow doesn't quite come off.

75%
73%
72%
78%
76%
72%
71%