A fiendishly addictive, yet simple concept.
You control a bouncing ball, set in space. The object is to collect the coins and power-ups by bouncing from platform to platform. If you fall to the bottom of the map you die, if you hit a spike or other nasty, you also lose.
Once all the coins have been collected, the exit will be enabled which was generally at the top of the map. By adjusting your bounce and direction, you carefully work your way to the exit.
Temporarily, the freeware demo of Astroball is attached.
In Astroball you have the simple task of bouncing around a scrolling world from platform to platform, collecting the required number of coins, and then getting to the exit (normally near the top of the level). The bottom of the map is deadly to the touch (unless you have the invincible bonus) and so are the spikes that litter some levels.
Also, some platforms have the unhealthy habit of flicking in and out of existance, quite often leaving you to plummet to a messy death below. So timing is of the essence in this game, especially since the bonuses flick between 4 states quite rapidly, and some levels may become impossible (impassible) if you collect the bonus in the wrong state.
So, the game is simple, but it is also deceptively hard, and some levels will require tens of tries before you can pass them, and it's here that Balor has made his fatal mistake. Instead of giving you, say, 3 continues, he opted for infinite. This means that with a bit of patience you will complete the game first time you load it up (I did), and this means you probably won't come back to it.
This is an awful pity, as I can honestly say it is THE most addictive game I have EVER played. And a bit more thought would have meant that instead of relying on people to be self-restricting when it came to continues, the players would have been forced to start again at regular points.
Again, a typical case of rushing the game out so that early SAM owners had something they could play.
|Simple and uninspired. But it doesn't matter, as they work
|Hoists you up by your pants and breathes 'play me' softly into your ear.
|Blip-blop. Big wow...
|Why only 87%? Because of the blimmin' infinite continues!
Your Sinclair review (Recovered) courtesy of The YS Rock ‘n’ Roll Years. YS 80
Astroball (SAM) - Revelation £9.99 Aug 1992 YS80
Just as much fun as the Speccy version, if not more so. Screamingly playable.
You can't keep a good ball down. Fresh from her triumphantly Megagamed debut on the Speccy, Astroball has rolled onto the Coupe. The question on everyone's lips is, can she repeat her earlier success? Or will she fail miserably, a-tumbling by the roadside in pathetic sobbing distress, or what? Well strangely enough, that very question will be answered in the attractively-spaced clumps of words that follow. Spook, eh?
You all remember the plot to Astroball. Oh come on - you must do. It's about a ball who has to bounce around some floating clouds, grabbing coins while avoiding sharply-edged diamond stars. And that's it. There's some background wibble but it all boils down to springing around with skill and gay abandon. "Yes, yes!" I hear you cry. "That's as maybe, but what's it actually like?" Of course, I can't really hear you say that. It's just me being a bit clever and attempting to involve you more in the whole reviewing experience. Ho hum.
Seventh heaven, cloud nine
If you cast your critical eye back to issue 78, you'll find our noble reviewer (um, me actually) wittering on at length about "sweaty-palmed action," and "gameplay so addictive it's unhealthy," concluding that "the whole thing's been put together with loving care and a spot-on attention to detail," before tripping into the sunset with the remark, "It's ripping stuff."
Right-ho, that's today's lesson in self-plagiarism. What I'm trying to say, in my coy and roundabout fashion, is that Speccy Astroball was a corker - and the SAM conversion is just the same. It's addictive. By Jingo, is it addictlye. By jiggling the ol' joystick you exert a wobblingly large amount of control over Astroball - basically, once she's in the air, you can move her about all over the place until gravity gets the idea and decides to spoil the fun. So, with a bit of practice, you can send the ball into a lazy arc that picks up a couple of coins before twiddling the joystick minutely to drop her safely onto a platform. Or maybe not. Y'see, you can only see a part of the playing area at one time - the vertical scrolling quite successfully hides the important bits until you stumble with loud screams upon 'em. I love it. I really do.
Graphics are slightly better than the Speccy's, with dashes of colour and, um, some more dashes of colour. Sound is... different - there's a fairly horrible title tune, but some smashing clangy effects, and a really brilliant scream when Astroball drops stomach-wrenchingty through empty space. It all goes to create a splendidly spooky atmosphere. Sadly, the mini-Galaxians when you complete a level has been lost. Actually, the whole thing seems dramatically harder this time around - things get spectacularly tough from Level Two onwards. Tsk.
Okay, so that's a base score of ninety, with a couple of extra marks for the sound... minus a few for losing Galaxians... multiply that by two... take away the number you first thought of - well, blimey. It's a Megagame all over again. Hurrah!
Life Expectancy: 88
Instant Appeal: 75
Certain phrases are converted to hidden messages in the high score table.
Looking at a dump of the SAM version of Astroball it seems the messages are in plain-text but, unlike the Speccy version, the message triggers are encrypted. The encryption is very basic - simply the ASCII code + 1. Here are the triggers and messages in the SAM version:
|WOULDNT YOU LOVE TO KNOW!..
|TALKING TO ME. EHH!
|IT SEEMS THAT YOU ARE.. YES INDEED!!!
|CLEARLY THE GREATEST GAME IN EXISTANCE.. HA!
|ERM.. GO ON A DIET!
|NOT THIS TIME MATE!!
|THE LORD AND RULER OVER ALL MANKIND!!!
|THE SOURCE OF MY INSPIRATION!!!!
Most are obvious. JADEL refers to the then girlfriend of Balor Knight, Jade Lucas who is also creditied on the ZX Spectrum version. ASTROKING is reference to the cheat-mode trigger on the Speccy version. CHRISP refers to Chris Pile, the other half of Digital Reality as per the following:
..at the time Balor and I had big ambitions but the government (via its 'Restart' scheme for the terminally unemployed) had other ideas for our future... I was coerced into attending one of these schemes (Balor avoided it!) on the promise of a job in computers... Needless to say, like most government promises (and schemes), nothing came of it... I got good at making tea though. Anyway - henceforth I became known - to Balor, exclusively - as 'Restart Boy'.