C64 Review of Ballblazer from Issue 9

ZzapTest Logo by Biggest Jim


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' the plasmorb.

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 scored

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...

This review was typed in/OCRed by Brigadon - Zzap!64 Online

ZzapBack Logo by Biggest Jim
In the spirit of ZzapBack, you can have your say about how the game reviewed above, stands up in the cold light of today. Has it aged badly or is it still worth a few plays? Read other peoples thoughts and post your own.

The current ZzapBack rating is : 52%

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Anonymous - 11 Jan 2018

Rating : 69%
LeeT - 6 May 2005
I do think this game was massively overrated by the ZZAP! crew.

It's fairly uninspiring, boring and tedious.

Rating : 35%
CraigGrannell - 13 Mar 2004
I never really got the point about Ballblazer, and certainly never understood the accolades heaped upon it. Sure, the graphics were nice enough (for their time, at least), but I always felt the gameplay was lacking.

If you really want the C64 equivalent of tedious blow football, this is for you. If not, join me in wondering just why this is hailed as a classic, when it's really not much cop at all.

Rating : 32%
Kristian - 13 Mar 2004
While the graphics are simplistic compared to todays games, they are still quite functional and indeed enjoyable to behold. The game itself still stands the test of time in the way that games like pac man, space invaders, or indeed Pong!, do.

The game still gets the heart pumping as the chequered floor flies past at blurring speeds.
Played against the computer, it gets dull quickly, but then it always did. This is a game to play with a friend. When using the games (really, at the time, revolutionary) split screen multiplayer mode, you still find yourself getting hooked on the high-speed andrenaline buzz offered up by this true class act of a classic game.

If you've never played the original, then feel free to knock 10% off the score, on account of your lack of misty eyed nostalgia.
Otherwise, grab some snacks (hedgehog flavour crisps or monster munch will do fine), slip on a pair of comfy leg warmers, pop "Crockett's Theme" on the stereo, and get ready of a 900mph trip dowm memory lane.

Rating : 75%
Gary Penn
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.
Gary Liddon
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.
Julian Rignall
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 the best.
Slick in all aspects.

Fast, smooth and glitch free split screen display.

Great auto-improvised music but unfortunately weak FX.

Instant high speed addiction.

Compulsive sports action whether you play against computer or human opponents.

A down to Earth price for a such an out of this world game.

The best sports simulation to hit the 64 yet.