Review by dancer62

Reviewed: 11/30/10

One of the earliest first-person games

Ballblazer, a one-on-one soccer game with hovercraft! Lucasarts, the Star Wars people, came out with a series of first-person 3D games in 1984 and 1985, Rsscue on Fractalus, The Eidolon, Ballblazer, and Koronis Rift. I first played Ballblazer on the Atari 400 in 1984. At the time it was an impressive game. Rescue on Fractalus was also amazing, and both games have aged well. Ballblazer for the Atari 7800 was released in 1987, and seems identical to the 8-bit computer version.

Graphics are simple, colorful, and effective, a split-screen first person view of a checkerboard grid, your hovercraft always turns to face the ball, or to face the goal if you are in possession of the ball. The goal, two goalposts, moves back and forth along the edge of the field, you can shoot from any distance you can see the goal, but since the ball wobbles in the forcefield you hold it with, closer is more sure of scoring, but the further away, the more points your score. Your opponent can steal the ball from you, similarly, you can steal the ball from your opponent by shooting it away from them. The ball changes color to match the hovercraft possessing it. First to ten points wins, or the player scoring the most points within the time limit. The hovercraft ("rotofoils") look like little chess pawns. The game can be set for two players, one player vs the computer, or two computer players. It's fun and instructive to watch the game play itself. The theme tune is simple but catchy, there's a little victory tune when you score a goal, otherwise sound effects are the snap of the ball, the whish of the forcefields, and a drumbeat in the background marking game time.

The game is still remarkably fun to play today, There is nothing else available quite like it. The hovercraft can only face the four cardinal directions, so the snap as the hovercraft changes direction to face the ball or the goal can be disorienting. Stealing the ball from your opponent and running it to your own goal is thrilling. Similarly, when your opponent steals the ball from you, you chase them, determined to get it back. The challenge of shooting from a distance, timing the wobble of the ball, is fun. Ballblazer is a simple game, but surprisingly deep. A true classic!

Pros: Unique gameplay
One of the earliest first-person games

Cons: Can be disorienting

9/10: of its kind, a true classic

Rating: 9

Product Release: Ballblazer (US, 12/31/88)

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