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     " Games based on playground pastimes are cool. "

      Title: Ball Breakers by Take 2 Interactive (that's MoHo to our UK readers)

      Format: PS1 Ball Action Game

      Reviewing Monkey: The Goodyear Chimp

      The Hype: "Roll with the punches! Roll over the competition!" Such weak puns, Lost Toys should keep their developers and fire their publishing company. Still, Ball Breakers is an entertaining concept: Itís a repackaging of an old engine into a new game with the attractive selling price of only $9.99. But, is it worth it?

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: I'm always a little concerned when the box art for a game is sampled exclusively from the cut scenes but Ball Breakers doesn't disappoint with its sharp graphics, clean effects, and pretty lighting. My only complaint in this category is the downright odd look of the main characters. It's the future and they've had their legs replaced with balls, I know, but make them look badass and I'll give you a five. Overall, well done but nothing ground breaking. 4 out of 5

      Sound: While the music is a little sparse, the hard hits of metal on metal sound just right. I would have liked to hear voice characterizations for each player but all the clanking and explosions provide for a good experience. 4 out of 5

      Game Play: Everyone and their mom can tell this is the bastard child of Marble Madness and thank god for it! There hasnít been something with physics like that since and the creative ways the designers played with the concept are respectful enough to capture the fun we had playing that game while engrossing us in this one. There are seven main game types that are mixed and matched in each prison level. Race games are the least inventive as they require you to do laps on rather uninspired courses. Last Man Rolling is basically getting your rocks off wasting other prisoners and, honestly, isnít that impressive either (since you have only a punch, a dash, and a super move to fight with). King Of The Hill is a step up since it recreates a game weíve all played as children in a post-apocalyptic battle arena [Note to designers everywhere: games based on playground pastimes are cool. See Tecmoís Super Dodgeball on the NES for inspiration.]. Pursuit is essentially the same find-your-way-from-one-end-to-the-other maze game that Run The Gauntlet is with the addition of water from which you must flee. Tag is the best in two-player mode but also doubles as good one-player item pick-up game. The true king of the heap, without a doubt, is Powerball, which could be a game on its own (four-player perhaps). It, simply, involves beating the piss out of the competition in an attempt to deliver small metal balls to magnetic polesÖSomething that has never been more fun than it is here (okay, so maybe this is the only time youíve done it- but the rest of us were way ahead of you). Once youíve reclaimed your Marble Madness chopsóa breeze with the analog padóyouíll tear through enough of these games to win special rewards in the bonus levels. Tell me when you get there that Ball Breakersí form of golf isnít the most bizarre thing ever. 5 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: With the exception of the Race levels which are basically ovals and figure eights, someone spent some time developing challenging level layouts. Kudos are especially deserved by those responsible for the Powerball levels. Of particular note are the bonus golf levels and the Powerball level set on a football field. 4 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Iím saddened that this couldnít be a four-player game and also that you canít select on which levels youíd like to challenge your friends (you pick a tournament with preset groups of levels). Still, playing with another human is always the best way to go. Since the learning curve is geared toward beginners, you can take this over to the next get-together and have Powerball championships with both Ball Breakers pros and newbies. Too bad youíll bore of the race competition so quickly. 3 out of 5

      Replayability: With the exception of the multiplayer, thereís no reason for this title to end up in your "quick access" stack of games. Once youíve done it all, youíve done it all. 2 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: They cut off prisonerís legs and give them big balls to ride around on? The story can only be described as ludicrous but itís enough to get you going. Since I didnít punish the game in the sound category for not having character voices, Iíll slap it around here. The charactersí personalities donít shine through even when their performance differences do. Had there been voices or more cut scenes, the game would have drawn me in more effectively. 1 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: With simple keys and a simple purpose, even simple people will be rolling along in no time. The only possible exception to this is the previously mentioned golf bonus round thatís insanity on a stick. The manual makes your purpose clear and gets you ready to go without turning into a novel. Thatís what we like. However, there could have been some advanced tactics for players whoíve mastered the simple stuff. 4 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Load times are not obnoxious and thereís rarely slowdown. The PlayStation easily handles this spiffed up engine. 5 out of 5

      The Verdict:


       In a market flooded with $50 games, where quality used games will run you $20, finding a solid $10 game still in its cellophane is a real blessing. Well worth it's low priced appeal.

      The Good: Echoes of Marble Madness.

      The Bad: A better multiplayer would have improved replayability (and the final score).

      The Overall Ugly: Ugly? They cut off prisonerís legs and give them big balls to ride around on. That's pretty damned hideous as far as I'm concerned.

      What it's Worth: $10, hell you could pay $15 and be happy.

Buy it direct from Amazon.com

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