|David Levine, Peter Langston, David
Riordan, and Garry Hare
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
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
||Ballblazer Cartridge 1-20-84
||Minor differences in copyright
to 5200 Software