Saturday 6 March 2010

Ball Bearing

Sonic gets everywhere these days doesn't he?

Presenting "Ball Bearing", a game for the Amstrad CPC computer released by a group known as Radical Software in 1993. Bearing in mind that the Amstrad CPC was released in 1984, a full nine years before this game, it's fair to say Ball Bearing wasn't much of a success. In fact it only seems to have been released in the UK, for a budget price of £3.99. Why is it notable? Because it's heaviliy inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Mega Drive, and that doesn't happen often with old computer games.

U.S. Gold actually bought the rights to port the original Sonic the Hedgehog to home computers of the day, though only an Amiga port was officially announced (and later discontinued). An Amstrad CPC port was in theory possible, but never materialised, so this is as close as you're ever likely to get (unless a fan comes along and programs a Sonic game from scratch).

In Ball Bearing you play as a... ball, and you may only move up and down. Your ball will automatically bounce left and right, and has limited amount of "oil" which slowly drains away. The aim is to collect rings, which are dotted around the various levels. The ball can be powered up so that it can access certain restricted areas, and you need to try your best to avoid dangerous obstacles otherwise you'll lose your oil quicker and inevitably die. It's a bit of a challenge, because the Amstrad's blocky graphics make it difficult to see what's going on sometmes, and also the lack of oil powerups means lives are lost very quickly.

As you can see, the graphics are heavily inspired from the Sonic the Hedgehog series (and the "Radical" logo seems to be based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). However, due to its late and limited release, not many people seemed to notice these obvious steals. It actually looks quite nice, and suggests a CPC port of Sonic may have looked rather cool, but it certainly isn't a groundbreaking video game.

As for the game itself, it's not too bad. Extremely difficult and very simplistic for 1993's standards, but worth a look if you're a CPC fan looking for quick thrills.



    I took some footage with a CPC emulator.

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