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