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Ballblazer

Future sport, retro-style.

After initially flirting with the Atari 8-bit machines, LucasFilm evidently noted that the C64 was a more bankable format internationally. When that time came in mid 1985, it unleashed a flurry of top-rated and hugely ambitious games in the shape of The Eidolon, Rescue on Fractalus, Koronis Rift and Ballblazer.

All worthy of the prestigious Zzap Sizzler award, perhaps the most accessible and instantly gratifying of the lot was Ballblazer - a first person perspective 3D future sport where you had to guide your 'Rotofoil' around a basic chequered playfield and attempt to shoot a floating ball into your opponent's 'goalbeam'. Zzap awarded it an incredible 98 per cent - its highest-ever score at that point, and one that wouldn't be topped for years.

Designed primarily as a two-player game, the action was displayed in split screen, allowing you to also see what your opponent was up to, and where they were on the field of play - crucial for the purposes of sneaky dispossession. Once in possession, the game snaps your viewpoint automatically to face the goal - confusing at first, but quite an elegant way to deal with what might have otherwise been a disorientating affair.

Although best against a pal, the various configuration options that were available to you made Ballblazer almost as much fun against the computer, with nine levels of difficulty, and time settings to fiddle with if you wanted an epic contest.

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This radically different visual approach effectively ripped up the rule book, and demonstrated that powerful 8-bit machines were more than capable of breaking away from sprite-based 2D gameplay with a bit of technical nous and imagination.

We're not going to pretend that Ballblazer is still an amazing game to play now - for a start, its visual approach has dated hideously in the ensuing decades, and many would find it far too clunky these days. But, let's give LucasFilm its dues - Ballblazer still stands out as a fascinating period piece and a great example of the amazing progress that was being made in videogaming on a month-by-month basis.

6 /10

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About the author

Kristan Reed

Kristan Reed

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Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.

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