Up in the atmosphere, up where the air is clear, some loon has hidden a cache of coins. These valuable artefacts, the last remnants of the Mysterious People of Poam, have been salted away on a series of very thin clouds. The Elders of Poam, wise and bearded as they were, did this strange thing to protect their funds against inflation and burglars. "Tis only sensible," they intoned, and the people agreed. Just to make sure the vast wealth of Poam was completely safe, the Elders spiked some clouds with razor-edged diamonds, and electrified the ground. A clever plan indeed, and one that would have almost certainly guaranteed the fiscal security of Poam had the entire population not been squashed by a sudden and notably implausible rain of Steinway pianos. This strange tragedy has left the coins relatively unguarded and, as a money-mad lady Astroball, you're out to snaffle that cash.
Astroball is as simple as simple can be. There are 12 levels, and on each one it's just a case of travelling upwards, bouncing from cloud to cloud and picking up the coins as you go. The razor diamonds scattered around won't prove to be too much of a prob. In fact, you'll find that your greatest enemy in this game is... yourself. Yikes! Luckily, this is less to do with any deep-seated psychological problems than with the ball you control. Y'see, whether she's bouncing quietly on the spot, hurtling around madly or plummetting depressingly to the ground, the greedy globe is entirely under your command. It's a bit like most of the platform games around at the moment - once you jump into the air, you can move your character around as freely as if she were still on the ground. You know what I mean. Yes you do. Anyway. A jiggle of the joystick, and the sphere jinks expertly out of trouble. Hurrah! Another jiggle and the sphere crashes into the electrified floor. Curses. Coupled with the whizzily scrolling playing area - you're often leaping through space without quite being sure just where the cloud platforms are - this game's guaranteed to get your pulse a-thumping.
The graphics are perfect. Well, for the game at least. They're extremely fast and nicely-coloured, with we!l-defined lines and a thankfully uncluttered design. The parallax starfield in the background is more than a pretty effect - when you're wibbling around in mid-air, it's vital to know just where you're headed. In short, with Astroball you always know exactly what's going on. Hurrah!
The gameplay is so addictive it's unhealthy. As you're completely responsible for getting that blimmin' ball blown up, you become determined to get her to the finish line. The plethora of power-ups help things a little - an invincibility pill always comes in handy, as my dear old great-aunt used to say. On the other hand, the game throws in a few sneaky bits, such as only showing the level map at the beginning of each game and mixing disappearing clouds in among the normal ones. Tsk. These little extras serve to perk up the already sweaty-palmed action in no uncertain terms. As you can't actually get zapped unless you fall onto a diamond or the electric floor, you can get all the way to the top, mess up the final jump and - after screaming and waggling the joystick all over the place in an effort to get the ball to land on a passing cloud - have to start all over again. (Heh heh heh.) Irresistible!
1. Find a ball. These are easily recognised by the fact that they are completely round. Technically, they are known as spheres. You may remember the term from geometry, but that's not important right now.
2. Find a playing area. Sadly, nowadays there are few places for Spec-chums to enjoy a rousing game of Ball. Perhaps one of your friends has a large back garden or owns a landscaped park. Alternatively, an ordinary household kitchen makes an excellent playing area. Remember to unplug the microwave before you start your game.
3. Which variation of Ball will you play? Ask yourself this question. Then ask your friends this question. Then ask several other people this question. You will be amused by the answers you receive.
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