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Ball Breakers
Platform:  Playstation
# of Players:  1-2
Developer:  Lost Toys
Publisher:  Take 2
Features:  Analog Control, Vibration Function
Ratings:  Early Childhood
Memory Req.:  Memory Card: 1 Block
Info:  http://www.take2games.com

Sometimes the best games come out of nowhere, and here comes one of them
now- Ball Breakers, another of Take 2's budget-priced titles for the
Playstation manages to literally add a fresh spin on an old genre, and in
turn provide anyone sensible enough to pick it up hours of great fun. The
concept borrows a bit from the old arcade classic Marble Madness, with
touches of the PS game Loaded, as well as the movie Rollerball thrown in for
good measure.
Pay no attention to the back of the CD case, which not only has a slightly
misleading storyline, but also has NO screenshots of the actual gameplay.
The boys (and girls) in marketing need to be led out back and whipped with
some eggs in a big bowl- this is one game that deserves better.


Anyway, the plot has you playing as one of six different "artificial life
forms", sentenced to a rather harsh sentence- you have your legs removed
(ouch), and a huge ball is set underneath you as your only form of mobility.
In order to earn some sort of freedom, you must compete against other
prisoners (who also share the same mobilty deficiency), and become, as the
overly dramatic narrator in the game says, "the last man rolling!"
Definitely an original idea, even though it was done before (sort of), in
the old Sega Genesis game Fatal Rewind. Ball Breakers takes the bleak
outlook in that game and amps it up with excellent control and really sharp
graphics, as well as adding a two-player mode for those of you with friends
that love to compete.


There are at least 10 prisons to fight through, with 80 levels total- an
incredible value for the small amount of money you'll spend on this game.
Basically, each level is a mini-game, and they increase in difficulty as the
game goes There are six different events, such as Racing, King of the Hill,
Run the Gauntlet, Powerball, and a few other challenges that pit you not
only against your fellow inmates and guards, but against the levels
themselves. You'll blow through the first two areas with some ease, but
after that, the game really demands that you focus on the tasks at hand, and
not fool around too much- yes, it gets hard fast. Not frustrating, in the
way that some games get, but challenging, as in you have to master the
controls in order to clear the areas in the required times. This is one of
the only instances that I can say that I liked a game with a strict time
limit.


The level design is inspired- you'll see acid pools, spikes, fire traps,
laser fences, rotating guns, missile launchers, and other hazards to ruin
your day. No two levels look the same, even though the textures repeat from
time to time. The game is set up so that you don't have to complete all the
areas at first, but in order to reach the higher levels, you need to go back
and either snag a gold medal in areas you've missed, or finish those same
levels within the time limit. Each of the playable characters in the game is
full of personality and each has a specific style of fighting, like Angel's
double punch, or Benny's drill attack. The controls are simple to learn, and
thanks to the brake button (R1), you can stop and turn on a dime, or set
youself up for some serious platform jumping.


The graphics are really nice- each arena is full of colored lighting and
ramps, pits, directional arrows and signs, etc. There's a nice ripply
warping effect when an enemy explodes or you jump from a high surface- make
sure you're either out of the immiediate area, or jump when the blast goes
off, though. The music is the usual futuristic techno-style stuff, not bad
at all, but you won't be humming the tunes as you drive to work either. I'm
a bit surprised that the game is rated E (Everyone), due to the huge amounts
of (bloodless) violence, and the opening CG which shows the after effects of
some really radical surgery. I'm guessing that marketing wanted the game to
reach a wider audience than the earlier games in Take 2's new lineup- well,
no matter what, this is a really well done effort from developer Lost Toys.


So what are you waiting for? Roll on down to your favorite game shop, and
grab a copy of Ball Breakers- don't let the price fool you into thinking
that it's not worth a lot more because it most certainly is!




Greg Wilcox


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