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Be Ball

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Released: 1990

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: PC Eng/Turbografx-16

Publisher: Hudson Soft

Developer: Now Production

At this point, we’ve had retro plug and play consoles for a good while, and I’m utterly convinced that I’ve fundamentally got them wrong in my mind. See, I’m pretty sure that what’s supposed to happen is that if you buy one of those systems and find a new favourite, you think to yourself “that’s good, I’m glad I own it via this mini console.” But that’s not what I do – I think “that’s good, I will now go and buy a copy for original hardware.” And while the PC Engine Mini certainly didn’t tempt me to drop ridiculous amounts of money on shoot-’em-ups, it did leave me convinced that Be Ball should join my HuCard library.

PC Engine Mini and Turbografx 16 owners will better know this game as Chew Man Fu, and it’s a maze game in which you need to direct four differently coloured balls onto their respective floor pads. This is naturally complicated by enemies, but there’s the catch – the balls aren’t just your objective, but your primary means of defending yourself. Kicking the ball launches it forward, damaging enemies and potentially destroying maze walls too. You can set up the balls in such a way as to trap your foes too, but you’ll need to be mindful of the time limit as you do so. It’s a fairly simple game but it’s very well implemented, particularly when it comes to control – you’ll very rarely ever find yourself heading backwards when you don’t want to be.

Maze games weren’t particularly fashionable by the Nineties and so they’re not particularly common on machines of this generation. That’s a shame, because games like Be Ball show that there were still inventive things that could be done with the genre. Fortunately, Be Ball isn’t one of the ridiculously pricey games that the PC Engine is notorious for having, coming in at affordable prices whether it’s loose or complete. Give it a chance and you should find that there’s a great deal of fun to be had – or alternatively, stick to the mini console like I probably should.