Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Astroball'

Rating:5 User: Digital Prawn

Very slick, well implemented vertically scrolling platform game where you play a bouncing ball in space - known as Astroball. The game consists of a set of self-contained levels of roughly increasing difficulty. Alhough, even the first level may take a few attempts before the uninitiated player finds success.

On loading the game, you are treated to a snappy upbeat AY sunth/drum tune and a choice of game controls. I just pressed '1' to start the game in keyboard mode where I was able to play using the familiar QAOP layout (also BREAK aborts the game). Before starting each level, the player is presented with a useful map, which can be studied and then used in advance to plan an approximate route. At least in the early levels, you start near the bottom of the level and must ascend to the exit near the top. When compared with the scale of the game objects, the height of each level is surprisingly great. You will learn pretty quickly that jumping down onto lower platforms is more risky than jumping up onto higher platforms.

Not only do you have to leap from platform to platform (and they are typically quite narrow) whilst the ball is bouncing, but you also need to avoid falling to the solid brick floor at the bottom of each level and also avoid some in-game lethal objects. That's two ways to lose a life. A third is to run out of time, as you are against the clock and the allocated time is not overly generous. If that's not difficult enough, then there are also platforms which flash in and out of existence, requiring some accurate jump timing. It should also be noted that each level contains several spinning coin-like objects and all of them must be collected before the level can be exited.

To help the player, there are fast-changing bonuses which for example grant additional time, an extra life, or even can propel the astroball a long way up the screen saving valuable time. In some levels it is vital that the correct bonus is collected or the level can't be completed. Again, this requires precise timing to get right.

The game also features a bonus sub-game appearing at the end of the level which is a bit like the Galaxian/Galaga genre. This plays equally as smooth as the main game itself.

My overall opinion of this game is that is very responsive, fast and enjoyable to play, with pleasing graphics and sound. It's also reasonably difficult to master. I can't see how a game of this type could ever be implemented much better on the speccy. Full marks indeed!