Dust Brain is a ball among balls on the planet Orb. But can he conquer the career mountain and become top dog on this planet of rotundity?
At least it's a bit easier than locating the voice of centrist liberalism. You see, Orb is a planet of solid platforms and black grid areas into which other Madballs can be knocked and captured by Dust Brain - to sit upon his potential planet-ruling cabinet. This hooligan political team sits in a tube beneath the main screen.
After trapping a captive from one level, Dust Brain can begin his search for another cabinet member by finding an exit and moving to the next level.
But its 'do as you would be done by' on democratic Orb, and all the other Madballs are out to knock their compatriot off the platforms. And our hero can only survive the fall if he has already captured other Madballs - each one captured gives him an extra life.
All the Madballs interact, bouncing off each other and the scenery according to their relative speed and strength. For instance, the stronger a Madball, the more difficult it is to deflect from its path.
And trampolines, springboards, catapults, ramps, pyramids and oil slicks all can all bring a little extra bounce, speed and direction into the Madballs' lives.
But even globes need a gobble, and the Madballs' different nutritional requirements - which range from cabbages to fish heads and bones to Coke - can be gathered to increase their energy. (Every Madball has its own energy level, indicated by a revolving striped pole.)
As Dust Brain plies his career path through this world of lovable bouncers - originally a TV cartoon, then a range of toys - he can stack up points by squashing fried eggs and knocking off Madballs and the universally hated 'undistinguished Bureaucrats'.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: monochromatic play area viewed from above, detailed balls
Sound: wild and wacky... but not very good
'Like Gremlin Graphics's Smashed Bounder, Madballs is difficult to control at first, especially as your fellow balls are trying to knock you off your rather precarious perch. But after a few games you can give the enemies a taste of their own medicine. The graphics are very good the ball even appears to grow larger and smaller as it bounces up and down, in true Bounder style. And there's a boppy little tune on the title screen and effective sproinging sound effects. Madballs may not be subtle or demanding enough for some, but it's instantly playable.'
MARK ... 70%
'Madballs is a curious licence, an odd mixture of the Bounder format and the Motos-style arcade game. It has all the ingredients of success: an interesting scenario, strong, individual characters, and excellent packaging. But the game is nowhere near as good as the promise. Graphically it's reasonable - the faces on the Madballs are well-animated and neatly drawn, and they have a certain cutesy appeal. The backgrounds are poor in comparison (very tediously similar landscapes with no real 3-D effect), though the scrolling works smoothly. But the major letdown is the gameplay. The control-methods awkward: if you push the joystick in any direction and let go, the Madball doesn't stop but continues another inch, and this lack of precision spoils a game where accuracy of movement and positioning is called for. So you can have an awful lot of very quick and frustrating games trying to orient yourself, and ultimately Madballs doesn't really deserve all that attention.'
GORDON ... 59%
'At first Madballs is very pleasing: the graphics are pretty, there's an excellent tune accompanying the title screen, and there's plenty to do. But the monochrome is a bit trying - all that blue begins to hurt! - and though Madballs is basically good the fun soon bounces away.'
MIKE ... 66%
How about this for weird! A game license based on a totally nutty range of kids toys. Madballs are horrible squidgy little lumps of plastic that can be bounced around, or filled with liquid, each one having a different face and character (any resemblance to this reviewer is totally coincidental).
After a couple of games I discovered why the title Madballs was chosen - the gameplay is so frustrating that it leaves you in a fuming, angry, hair-pulling state yelling "SPHERICAL OBJECTS" at the top of your voice! Not that Madballs is a poor game - far from it. After sticking at it for hours on end I began to get somewhere and finally sussed out enough details to jot down this review.
The ultimate aim is to become the top ball, and this is done by bouncing other Madballs into a goal. There are eight balls to collect. Each has a different character and power/energy levels. Once captured, a Madball can be swopped for the one you are controlling, by leaping over an empty dustbin (don't ask me why! I'm only playing the game).
Madball land is made up of several oddly shaped platforms with scenery that can either help or hinder you. Things like ramps or pyramids either slide the ball into more danger, or give it a nasty pain in the urals. Trampolines and catapults give your balls extra elasticity which can bring a tear to the eye at times. So watch out fellow ball bouncers.
I quickly discovered Madballs was another version of an old Mastertronic game Motos, but with knobs on. Simply (simply - that's a laugh!) knock the other inhabitants of Madball world off the beaten track and proceed to the next level. Easier said than done. Controlling your balls (oo-er) is very, very hard, especially when the bureaucrat balls lay into you. But I feel this works in the game's favour. You just have to find out what's around that next corner, so you'll press the 'new game' button without thinking.
I enjoyed Madballs, even though I smashed three joysticks in the process. Maybe the graphics look a little washed out, but when you get into the game that is hardly noticeable. The scrolling gets nine out of ten, the sound, a feeble three. The only major drawback I found, was not being able to squash the chickens that made the Commodore version even better to play! It's weird, it's freaky. It's the most frustratingly addictive game I've played all month. Nuff said!
|Value For Money||6/10|
Madballs are these little tennis ball sized spheres that are incredibly ugly. In Madballs, the game, you are an ambitious Madball who wants to become the top Madball on the planet Orb by becoming leader of the gang of Madballs. You play a splendid little fellow by the name of Dust Head and he must travel about the various areas of Orb recruiting the different members for your gang. To recruit them, you have to gently let them know that you wish them to join. By gently, I mean you have to push them off the walkway you are currently on. Once they have graciously agreed to join, they appear in a little box under the main screen.
On the various levels are different balls. They range from the fast but weak Screamin Meemie to the slow but very strong Freeky Fullback. Some are very easy to recruit, some are damn difficult. But it's not just the Madballs that inhabit the peaceful (Eh?) land of Orb. The nasty officious Bureaucrats also roam the wold, and if you kill one of them, you'll score a lot of points. Once you have collected one or more balls, you can change between them by landing in an open dustbin. Also, as well as the dustbins, there are various other items scattered about. Things like trampolines and catapults increase your bounce, and ramps and pyramids can help or hinder your depending on how you use them, but I'm not going to give that away.
The graphics are very Bounderesque, with a ball getting bigger and smaller to show an overhead view of a ball bouncing. At first the controls are very hard to master, and you find yourself bouncing off the edge of the walkway you are on via all manner of objects. Then you can start really getting into the game, which, though not earth shattering, is not all that bad. Admittedly, a bit more colour could have been used on the mostly monochrome playing area, the gameplay could have been a little easier to get to grips with, but still, it gets involving, and you soon find yourself egging your little on screen counterpart on with cries of "Go on" and "Get 'im". If you like games that need a bit of thought, buy this. If you just want a fast blast, maybe not.
Author: Steve Lamb
Reviewer: Jim Douglas
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