Ballblazer

Name:
Ballblazer
Company: Atari
Model #:
CX-5255
Programmers:
David Levine, Peter Langston, David Riordan, and Garry Hare
Year: 1984
Released?
Yes
Notes:
Originally called Topsy Turvy then Ballblaster

 

In late 1983 as the 5200 was entering its final stage of life, LucasFilm (yes that Lucasfilm) decided they wanted to take a shot at the videogame market.  Although LucasFilm was a huge and successful company, they didn't have clue one on how to go about entering the highly competitive videogame market.  So instead of floundering around like an amateur, LucasFilm wisely joined forces with Atari to publish its games.  Unfortunately this partnership was to be short lived as their first two 5200 games, Ballblazer and Rescue on Fractalus, would be their last.  However LucasFilm went on to publish several more games for the Atari 8-bit computer line under their own name.

 

The year is 3097.  The place, a null-gravity nexus mid-space in the binary star system Kalaxon and Kalamar.  This is the site of the final round of the Interstellar Ballblazer Championship, the ultimate sport in the universe.  The crowd is buzzing with excitement as for the first time a Earthling has qualified for the championship.  The only thing standing between you and victory is the enemy's Rotofoil.  The pride, prestige, and honor of Earth is on the line.  Don't let them down...

 

Despite the cool sounding setup, Ballblazer is really just futuristic one-on-one soccer.  Each player controls a small ship called a Rotofoil which is used to move the ball around the field.  The Rotofoil is amazingly fast and can move down the field at blazing speeds (hence the name of the game).  The goal of the game is to bypass your opponent and shoot the ball through the tiny posts at each of the field.  Of course this is all easier said than done, especially when traveling at mind numbing speeds.

 

Thankfully the controls in Ballblazer are easy to master.  Pushing the joystick forward makes your Rotofoil accelerate, while letting go of your controller will make the Rotofoil slow to a stop.  Since the fist person perspective of the game can be a bit disorienting, the programmers were nice enough to make your Rotofoil automatically rotate to face in the direction of the ball.  If you get lost, just keep pushing forward and you'll eventually find the ball.  Once you touch the ball your force field will "grab" onto it, and the ball will remain with your Rotofoil until it's stolen or shot.  The ball can be stolen by simply bumping into your opponent, but since he can simply steal it back by quickly bumping back into you, successfully stealing the ball is easier said than done.

 

Of course just riding around with the ball all day isn't going to win you the game.  To be crowned Masterblazer you're going to need to score alot of goals (well at least one more than your opponent anyway).  To score a goal, simply move your Rotofoil in view of the goal posts and press the button to launch the ball.  If all goes well the ball will whizz through the posts and you'll score a point.  Score five points and you win.  Of course it wouldn't be much of a game if scoring points was this easy now would it?  To make things a bit more difficult the goal posts actually move!  Not only are they mobile, but they actually shrink a bit with each goal scored.  Oh and make sure you don't accidentally shoot at the wrong goal posts since you can score on yourself (and trust me that's really embarassing).

 

With it's split-screen two player action, first person perspective, and kick ass musical score (one of the first to be scored by a profession musician), Ballblazer was light-years ahead of its time.  Although the scaling and movement isn't quite as smooth as it is in the 7800 version, the 5200 does a great job of keeping the speed at a high level.  Ballblazer was one of only two games released in the white Lucasfilm-Atari style boxes, and in an odd quirk the cart label doesn't seem to mention the name of the game anywhere!  Thank god only two games were released like this or things could have gotten mighty confusing.

 

Version Cart Text Description
1/20/84 Ballblazer Cartridge 1-20-84 Minor differences in copyright text
?/??/84 Ballblazer (lucasfilm) Final Version

 

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