Format reviewed: ZX Spectrum
Developer: Timothy Closs
Submitted by: Andrew Masters
I, Ball was a fantastic budget shoot 'em up, and one of the few games I actually completed. When you loaded the game in you would get fantastic sampled speech of 'I BALL' screaming out at you. When you lost a life Ball would scream 'OH NO'. This was the 80s and such things were obviously cutting edge (speech in games!). The game also screams 'WAR!' at you, and (making less sense) 'POWER DRIFT…'. Think of the sampled speech from Spectrum Ghostbusters and you know what I mean.
You are Ball and have to rescue Lover Ball, Eddy Ball, Glow Ball and No Ball (!). You had ten power-ups for your Ball shooter, and have to scroll up the screen firing round ball-like bullets. The enemies spawned into position, and this gave you some time to shoot them before they became deadly. You could fly back down the screen as well, as obstacles sometimes required this. You could shoot up and down the levels, but not horizontally. You can play with keys or joystick, but keys is (as always) easier). There was an I BALL II released a year later, and they kept the sampled speech, but tidied it up a bit.
The game was quite a challenge, as the enemies would follow you (though not shoot). It was Geometry Wars for the 80s (kind of!). The blocky graphics were quite cartoony and colourful. It was quite interesting to try and get better power-ups (just even to see what they did). Some were quite powerful and would help a lot. In the 80s we all really wanted to play arcade shoot-em-up games like Star Force at home, but we had games like this instead.
I remember being alone in my parents' house in the 80s on a summer day, playing this game for ever (no radio on, nothing). I played on this in my bedroom for hours and finally completed the game. There was a standard congratulations screen and a telephone number to call. So I wrote it all down feverishly, and then agonised about 'phoning up. I did 'phone up and said I had completed I BALL on the Spectrum – a surprised voice said 'oh right, congratulations.' And that was it.
I then spent hours during the rest of the afternoon making a small A5-sized certificate in my own stenciled handwriting, framed it and nailed it onto the wall. It amazes me how much time I really had for things like this in the 80s!