Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Ballistic

Retro Game of the Day! Ballistic

Ballistic by Mitchell, known outside of the States (and now, inside as well) as Puzz Loop. Released 1998 on GameBoy Color.

"All right, then," I can hear you ask, "What is Ballistic and why should we care?" Aha! Glad you asked. Interesting story. Ballistic was an arcade game port released over here on GameBoy and PlayStation at the cusp of the Millenium, to no fanfare whatsoever, but a virtually unknown (yet prolific) Japanese company named Mitchell - who themselves have an interesting history, but let's leave that for now.

Ballistic, Puzz Loop, whatever - more commonly known as Zuma, was - ahem - "adapted" by PopCap Games over here and made it into the big-time. Though Mitchell invented this deviation of the puzzle genre (known as the "Marble Popper"), Zuma became famous and no credit (respect or cash) was even given to the original developer. More interestingly, though this all happened quite some time ago, a recent popular iPhone title "StoneLoops of Jurassica" was pulled from the App Store at the request of Puzz Loop clone Luxor developer Mumbo Jumbo. Confused yet? Good!

Politics aside, the game itself is devilish in design. Taking a nod from Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble, you must shoot colored balls to match 3 or more, for a clear. Whereas Bust-a-Move moves the screen down towards a terminator line, Ballistic places your cannon at the center of a spiral on the screen, with the balls coming towards you. Destroy as much of the endless ball onslaught as you can, for eventually you will be overwhelmed and die. Curtains. The End. Game Over.

Simplicity, but very, very fun. The game has enough nuance to it to give classic Puzzle Game Grandfather Tetris a run for its money. To be honest, I think I have played Ballistic an equal number of hours as Tetris at this point. The gameplay really has a wonderful sense of rhythm, and though the visuals are sparse (at best) they do the trick perfectly when in the heat of the moment. To be honest, I prefer the B/W GameBoy version instead.

Certainly a shame that the original developer has been so ignored in all of this, I hope they have got some of their due inthe time since. You can find their own mods of this available all over the place (Magnetica on WiiWare, Puzz Loop on iPhone). For my money, those are alright, but the original model is tops. I would say this is in my top 25 of all-time favorite games!

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