Sunday 3 July 2016

Crystball (Supervision review)

Developer: Watara
Publisher: Watara
Released: 1992

Crystball is a Breakout / Arkanoid clone that was a pack-in game for the system.

You control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and the objective is to continually bounce a ball to destroy blocks at the top. Three difficulty settings and unlimited continues are available, as well as various power-ups (e.g. to speed the ball up or down, or increase your paddle size). In an interesting twist, the bottom of the screen houses two ledges that act as guards. Gameplay wise, there's a few annoying issues; for starters, your paddle doesn't move in a fluid motion and even a small tap of the d-pad shifts it along several pixels. This makes it difficult to line up shots and many lives will be lost due to the imprecise controls. The LCD ghosting is pretty bad too which leads to choppy action and balls that seemingly disappear for a split second. On top of this, you never feel like you have full control over the action, as the ball rarely seems to careen off at the angle it hits the paddle; as a result, you can't really guide shots to particular areas as balls basically follow a pre-determined pattern of left-right upon successive hits. There's also a few glitches including balls that clip through barriers, and the occasional issue of paddles smearing across the screen, creating a broken sprite. While the power-ups add a bit of strategy, none of them are particularly interesting and the Double Balls and Fire weapons from Arkanoid are sorely missed. To be fair though, the developers did add some variety in the form of blocks that require multiple hits, enemies that impede your progress, and holes in vertical walls that make the ball reappear on the other side; the latter is great for changing its path and for breaking blocks that are surrounded by barriers. The music is the real low point, with one dreadful, ear-piercing track that plays throughout every level!
While Crystball makes an effort to provide some variety, it's hampered by the console's poor screen and a seemingly rushed development period that resulted in various glitches. It really does nothing that isn't bettered by Alleyway (1989, Game Boy) and overall it's actually a very boring example of the genre.

Random trivia: While Crystball was the pack-in game with most versions of the system, some regions received Classic Casino (1993).

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