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Review: MegaBall 4 from IAM
By: Jason Compton
Breakout, Brickbreaker, Arkanoid...whatever the first game you saw in this
genre was, chances are you liked it. There seems to be an irresistable
element to these games that brings people in droves. Hordes of beginning
computer students have slaved away to recreate the game on all sorts of
platforms in all sorts of languages. The premise is so simple...a bar at
the bottom of the screen hits a ball around, which hits bricks at the top
of the screen. Get rid of all the bricks, you win.
Breakout had the original idea. Arkanoid made it slick, with the concept
of falling "powerups" to give you special weapons or abilities. (It seems
to be the inevitable evolution of arcade games that powerups always show up
sooner or later...) MegaBall improves on the Arkanoid model, giving it a
sense of style and something uniquely...Amiga.
MegaBall hasn't exactly been a secret. On the contrary, it's been a
shareware game for years, up to and including version 3, from the Mackey
brothers, Ed and Al. A unique registration offer came to them a few years
back from one Dale Larson (a pizza and a tour of Commodore, where Larson
was in the Amiga Networking Group at the time), and none of them forgot
about the experience. After doing well in the Amiga market, Larson decided
he wanted to publish a game. After doing well in the shareware market, the
Mackeys decided they wanted to be published. And so MegaBall 4 was born.
MegaBall loads on virtually any Amiga system, down to a 1 meg A500 and up
to an Amiga 4000/040. The game is designed to run in NTSC, but a MODEID
tooltype can be used in conjunction with a special tool, included with the
game, to identify valid screenmodes for play. PAL users will simply find
that their entire screen isn't being used by the game. Graphics card users
are encouraged to try, but not to expect great results. Just a tip:
Multiscan Extra-Low Res looks bad, too.
The brick-breaking idea in MegaBall form is this: Go up against
multicolored bricks in anything from the standard Breakout rectangle to
Santa Claus shapes. Grab powerups that may make your paddle bigger,
smaller, give it guns, kill you, change the laws of physics, or a number of
other things. Delight in blowing up half the screen with special Dynamite
bricks, or watch in disgust as Green Slime bricks breed across the screen
until they touch another brick and clone it. Wince as Blue Growers make
your task difficult by blowing up into even more bricks. And, oh yeah, be
sure you stay away from the "powerup" that kills (you).
At the same time, one of 5 music tracks plays in the background (leaving
one channel free for sound effects.) The tracks and graphics, both ECS and
AGA, were designed by Al Mackey--and a fine job of it. All 5 music tracks
have a very "arcade" feel to them, giving MegaBall a sense of atmosphere
beyond being a simple genre piece.
If the hundreds of levels included with the game bore you (and it'll take
quite some time), you're welcome to build your own with the Board Editor, a
ridiculously simple program that will turn you into a hero in the eyes of
your jaded MegaBall-owning pals.
Speaking of friends, MegaBall allows for two players, but they take turns
rather than working cooperatively, as games such as CyberSphere allow.
Perhaps best of all is that MegaBall is highly system friendly and
multitasking. It is, bar none, THE best thing to do with your Amiga during
a long download, taking away an insignificant amount of transfer time (on
my 030/25 A3000) but plugging away at full speed. And should you need to
check that download or render, MegaBall automatically pauses upon sensing a
screen switch. If you're REALLY lucky, you'll hear the special "pause"
MegaBall lacks a few Arkanoidian features, such as multiball play and those
annoying spaceships that come down from the top of the screen to make your
job tougher. You won't notice, though, as your single ball achieves
lightning speeds or you gleefully send it plunging through half a screen
full of exploding bricks. You won't notice when you make a level out of
your boss or ex-boy/girlfriend's name and happily blast it to bits. You
won't notice when you realize it's 3 AM and you should probably get some
Your US$30 buys you a loud red box, 3 disks of MegaBall 4, an AFS Floppy
demo disk, and a really great game. The manual for both MegaBall and the
Board Editor is in AmigaGuide (Aside from his book, Dale Larson is not one
for extensive printed documentation--the printed one page insert is a
record for IAM products), and includes tips for advanced players, notes to
MOD authors who want to make their own works MegaBall-compatible, and the
cheat keys for the game. If you've been wanting to register MegaBall 3 but
just couldn't get around to it, IAM's worldwide distribution leaves you
little choice but to buy MegaBall 4.
Intangible Assets Manufacturing
828 Ormond Ave.
Drexel Hill, PA 19026-2604