||Starpath / Arcadia
| Scott Nelson
|Clone of Breakout
Although Starpath/Arcadia is fondly remembered by many gamers
for their complex and unique Atari 2600 games, many forget that
they started out by making unauthorized clones of popular
games. In fact their fist four games (Phaser Patrol,
Communist Mutants From Space, Fireball, and Suicide Mission)
were all knock offs of various games (Star Raiders, Galaxian,
Breakout, and Asteroids respectively). Of course Starpath
enhanced and updated these games to give players more bang for
their buck, but they were still 'loving tributes'
nonetheless. Fireball is one of these games.
To say Fireball is a Breakout clone isn't quite fair. Yes
obviously heavily borrows from Breakout, but it adds some unique
variations of its own. In fact there are five different
styles of play, each one with its own unique rules. In all
variations the player controls a little guy who 'juggles
fireballs' (according to the manual). Your character
basically acts as a paddle that can hold two fireballs at once
(one in each hand) as he moves across the bottom of the
screen. Of course you can only hold onto your balls for so
long (I swore to myself that I wasn't going to make that joke but
the pressure got to me) and they'll automatically be thrown after
a short time. You start with five chances but earn an extra
one for each screen of bricks you clear. You can also add an
extra ball to the mix by hitting the fire button three times
rapidly until there are six balls on the screen. Doing so
increases your scoring (the more balls in play the higher your
score) but if you miss ANY ball you'll lose a life so be
careful. You can also use the difficulty switches to help
catch the balls if you're having trouble (B=Easier Catching,
The first variation is called Firetrap. This is really
just Super Breakout's Cavity variation. Here the board
resembles two circles with balls trapped inside. Once you
free the balls they'll bounce out and you'll have to contend with
them so be careful. This variation is fairly easy due to the
lack of blocks to reflect your shots.
Marching Blocks is very similar to Super Breakout's
Progressive mode where the blocks appear in rows that slowly move
down the screen. However unlike Super Breakout where this
occurs over time, in Fireball the blocks move down each time you
catch a ball. This can lead to a very hectic board very
fast. There are also balls trapped between the various rows
of blocks that you can free and occasionally a 'mystery fireball'
will appear out of nowhere for some extra fun.
This variation is just regular Breakout. You
must destroy the entire wall of blocks before a new one
appears. Nothing too interesting here other than the name
which was changed from Brick-A-Brac in the prototype.
This is the first completely new variation.
The board is set up similar to Super Breakout's Cavity mode
(without the extra balls), but the holes 'migrate' around the
blocks similar to the shield in Yar's Revenge. The rows will
rotate (moving the hole) left or right every few seconds making
this variation extremely random. This is probably the most
unique and fun of all the variations.
This variation is similar to Firetrap except there
are FIVE balls in pockets for you to free. If you like
juggling balls, then this is variation for you. This is
probably the hardest and most hectic variation as it's almost
impossible to keep all six balls in the air at once. You can
score big though if you manage to do it.
While Fireball is a fun Breakout clone, it gets a
bit dull after a while even with the various variations. There are
nice graphical touches here and there such as the shepherds crook
(also called a Vaudeville Hook) that grabs and drags your guy off
when you miss a ball, but at the end of the day it's still just
Breakout. The ability to add more balls to the game at any
time is a nice touch which adds a lot to the game. The
Supercharger does an amazing job at allowing up to 6 balls to fly
around the screen with no flicker, which is a sight to see.
Fireball also supports up to 4 players (with two sets of paddles)
so it can make for a fun party game (assuming you throw those
kinds of parties). If you really love Breakout, then
Fireball is the best version you're going to find on just about
to 2600 Software