Saturday 17 July 2021

Ball Busters (Gizmondo review)

Developer: Netdol Ltd
Publisher: Fathammer
Released: N/A

Ball Busters is an unreleased sports title that was due to be published in 2005.

You control a racket and the goal is to repeatedly hit the ball in order to launch it past your opponent's net to win a point. Arcade mode consists of five matches and features items that allow you to swerve shots or add a brick wall to your opponent's halve. The action is fast and intense, and the core concept is almost a mixture of Pong (1972, Arcade) meets Windjammers (1994, Neo Geo). The ability to collect items adds strategy too and I like how there's a risk-reward in terms of obtaining them while keeping an eye on the incoming ball. Also, the inclusion of some cheesy, yet humorous trash talk from the competitors adds personality to each match! However, while the controls aren't necessarily bad, your racket tends to jump around when pressing the d-pad; this lack of smooth movement results in lots of over-shooting your intended target and delicate shifts around the playfield are nigh-on impossible. Also, with only five matches per game this mode is rather short and lacking in replayability. Quest mode consists of 54 challenges that include avoiding bombs while returning the ball, or hitting moving targets. The objectives are quite basic, but there's definitely some fun to be had and the short bursts of gameplay encourage you to keep trying. Unfortunately, by the time you reach the higher difficulty levels it becomes more about luck rather than skill, as the speed increase is so steep that trying to line up your twitchy racket is total guess work. Also, like Arcade, this challenge mode is light on content and with only six gameplay variants you're usually doing the same thing over and over again with faster ball physics as the only difference.

Ball Busters is a neat concept that would have made an entertaining multiplayer game if the planned mode was finished, but as it stands the premise is a little lost when you're dealing with such bare-bones single-player content. It can be mildly enjoyable in short bursts, but the inaccurate d-pad controls do hold things back.

Random trivia: Netdol Ltd also developed Pocket Ping Pong 2005 which was released on the Gizmondo in 2005.

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