1-4 players, horizontal game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
Having covered the mainstream sports (with varying degrees of success) for the Lynx game library, Atari now turns to the unconventional sports for their latest game. This is MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL, written by Handmade Software, which brings sand, surf, and scantily-clad members of both genders together for some two-on-two fun. You can serve, spike, and dive either in a three- round elimination tournament, or a single game with four difficulty levels. Options allow you to change the ball speed, turn indicator boxes and winds on or off, and set the score and time limits.
A good sports game must balance two contrasting points: to simplify the skills needed to play well, yet still keeping the game challenging. On this count, MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL is only partially successful, as the efforts to make it playable blunts the edge somewhat. The game locks you into a fixed pattern -- ball goes over the net, one player sets it, the second player sets it, the first player returns. While professional volleyball players often use such a cycle, having it forced on you is a bit irritating. There is also little control over your aim or strength, which reduces the game to basic moving and button-pushing.
Despite these flaws, there are still a number of interesting points. There is enough unpredictability throughout to keep your attention, and the timing needed to hit the ball is tricky. The fixed cycle of ball- hitting applies to both teams, making for brief lulls where you can catch a breath. This gives the game an easygoing rhythm that some players will find relaxing. While this card will not appeal to everyone, neither can it be dismissed outright.
The graphics and sound in MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL, while not truly outstanding, are very good for the Lynx. Sprites are small but recognizable, though the females are a little too "healthy". Colors are largely tans and browns, with splashes of primaries to add some flair. There are also some nice background extras, such as head-turning crowds and wandering beachgoers. The few sound effects are merely passable thuds and whistles, and are eclipsed by the crisp, clear digitized voices. What really dominates are the ten background tunes, all respectably done in a variety of styles. Pressing OPTION 2 brings up a "CD player", allowing you to change the order and options the tunes are played with.
MALIBU BIKINI VOLLEYBALL is not a very demanding game, but is, like a good day at the beach, a leisurely way to spend some time. Gamers looking for a more punishing regiment should look elsewhere, but those who want a kinder, gentler sport will find this title pleasing.
GAMEPLAY: 6 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 8 OVERALL: 7