Classic Computer Magazine Archive A.N.A.L.O.G. ISSUE 78 / NOVEMBER 1989 / PAGE 51


air ballAtari Corp.
1196 Borregas Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
(408) 745-2000
XL/XE cartridge; $39.95

Reviewed by
Matthew J.W. Ratcliff

Airball is a fascinating three-dimensional graphic adventure for one player, with superb graphics and enter taining musical sound effects. It is one of the few games Atari has released recently, with a copyright of 1987 by Microdeal.
    The instruction leaflet does not provide much detail, other than the basics of game play. It seems you have upset an evil wizard. No one knows exactly why, but he is so angry that he conjures, "Mortal human, weak and small, turn into a bouncing ball." Poof!
    Your goal, as a deflating ball, is to navigate the evil wizard's mansion to recover his spell book. There are more than 150 peril-filled rooms to search. What's worse, the wizard has given you a slow leak. Scattered about the labyrinth of rooms in the mansion are air pumps. Whenever you are nearly flat, you must bounce upon one so it can pump you up. Wait too long and the ball explodes in a shower of rubber. You are given only four balls to complete the adventure, so you need to learn where the pumps are.
    Each room and hallway is viewed from above. The rooms are tilted and rotated at a 45-degree angle. This makes joystick control confusing at first, as is typical with all games of this type. I found that turning my joystick 45 degrees to the left made it much easier to navigate the rooms.
    The rooms are finely detailed, with excellent perspective and shading for a nice illusion of depth. The floors and walls appear to be made of a brown sandstone. The floors are tiled; the safe paths are smoothly colored. Some tiles are impregnated with lethal spines, which you must roll around or hop over. Wicked spikes protrude from the floors in nearly every room. Bouncing on any of these spikes is certain destruction. Staircases, which are easy to roll down or bounce up, can be found in many rooms.
    The total number of air balls remaining is shown at the bottom-left of the game screen. The score is at the bottom-right. In the center is a horizontal bar that acts as a gas gauge for total air remaining in the ball. When you hop on an air pump, this line increases. You must hop off before overinflating and bursting.
    Each room has at least one entrance and exit, depicted as a stone archway. As you progress in the game, it is wise to draw a map. Some rooms require instant selection of the proper move upon entry.
    Along the way you will encounter, scattered about the mansion, precious stones and gold bricks, which may be exchanged for points. Apparently, the wizard is following you closely and dropping these valuables as he goes. Sometimes, you will enter an empty room, exit and immediately reenter it to find more gold. This is entirely random, so you must keep a sharp eye.
    There are also special objects, essential to progress and ultimate completion of the game, that must be collected along the way. For example, some rooms are dark and thus unsafe to travel without proper lighting. You must gather the wizard's candle before you can safely enter this kind of room. Various obstacles are impassable until you move some crates into a position that allows you to safely bounce over them.
    Strategy is important in Airball. Only one object can be carried at a time. As you learn the mansion's mazes, planning where to place these objects for most efficient progress is vital.
    Airball will provide many hours of addictive fun. The graphics detail, depth, playability and musical effects reinforce the fact that the 8-bit Atari is an excellent gameplaying machine. Its only flaw, due to the fact that it is a cartridge game, is that you cannot save a game in progress. My hat is off to Atari and Microdeal for bringing such a fine and timely video game to the Atari XL/XE/XEGS computers. Note that Airball is not compatible with older Atari 400/800 computers.

    The author wishes to thank Randall's Home Computers of St. Louis, Missouri, for their valuable assistance in preparing this review.