Before they entered, and subsequently mastered, the world of 'point and click' adventures, in 1984 Lucasfilm started to build their reputation with a quartet of unusual arcade games which were distributed by Activision. Three out of the four games were revolutionary in so much that they used fractals to depict the ever-shifting backdrops, but by far the most playable of these early releases was Ballblazer, a futuresport which could be played by one or two players.
Played on a chequered pitch, Ballblazer was a simple one-on-one affair in which two players must attempt to gain possession of a plasma ball and fire it into their opponent's moving goal. To do this, both players are seated within an extremely manoeuvrable craft called a Rotofoil, and you can gain possession and shoot the ball by use of the foil's surrounding magnetic field which is used to attract and repel the ball for shooting and tackling.
The action is viewed using a split screen system, with the top half of the screen viewing the action from within your Rotofoil, whilst the bottom half shows the view from your opponent's craft. In all, up to ten levels must be scored before the match's time-limit expires, and success results in a victory for you and instant death for your opponent.
Well, thanks to those resourceful guys at Rainbow Arts, no longer are Amiga owners neglected of the game that made C64 owners gloat with pride. Licenced from Lucasfilm, Rainbow Arts have taken the basic theme of Ballblazer and added new features and generally tarted up its appearance, retitling it Masterblazer in the process.
All the basic gameplay features have been faithfully recreated, and there are still nine computer-controlled opponents to work your way through, but the action is significantly faster, adding speed to an already fast game. The main enhancement, though, is the inclusion of a tournament, which allows you to compete for the coveted Masterblazer trophy by making your way through a number of sudden death rounds.
It was a real pleasure seeing an old favourite like Ballblazer updated and improved - especially since all the original's features have been improved and added to. The new tournament adds to the game's lasting appeal, whilst presentation has also been improved with a nice tutorial option explaining the game's intricacies.
These improvements also extend to the graphics which are detailed without sacrificing speed - a problem that could have wrecked this conversion. That said, I was a massive fan of the original, and have been looking forward to the Amiga conversion for ages, and must concede that Masterblazer probably won't appeal to all tastes.
The action can be a tad repetitive, but as far as I'm concerned this is an incredible blast from the past that should be seen as soon as possible.