for 1 or 2 players
by Atari Games
It's the 31st century, and after 200 years of peace, there is a conflict. The two political parties of the universe are arguing over a successor to the recently-deceased President of the World. Instead of settling the dispute through barbaric warfare or elections, both parties have sent a representative to play the zero-gravity game of Robo-Squash. The winning player will win the Presidency for his party. Guss what? You're one of the players.
The Robo-Squash game consists of 16 rounds. For each round, you sit at one end of a zero-gravity corridor. At the other end is your opponent, and in the middle are spinning bricks and some icons. A ball is batted back and forth between the players, picking up speed and knocking out obstacles as it goes. A round ends when one player fails to return the ball three times, or one player hits the roving mecha-spider that appears when all obstacles are knocked out.
The game is complicated by a few twists: First, missing a ball leaves a big red splotch on your end of the arena. This is more than a nuisance, it blocks your view of the ball and makes it harder to see incoming shots. Second, hitting the icons in the middle of the arena gives you (if you can catch it) power-ups: a ball grabber, a larger paddle, a fireball launcher, or a ball spotter are available.
Before each of the 16 rounds, a player picks a ball in a 4-by-4 grid to play for. Winning a round wins the ball for the player, and at the end of all the rounds, bonuses are awarded for getting grid entries in 2, 3, or 4-in-a-rows.
ROBO-SQUASH is a nice, well-balanced "sports game" (okay, sport-like). The general concept reminds me of PONG, BREAKOUT, SHUFFLEPUCK CAFE, and ARKANOID. The game and controls are easy enough to learn, and the addition of power-ups, vision-blocking, and fighting for grid positions make it more interesting. The game has four difficulty levels, which affect the top speed the ball can get and the intellect of the coputer opponent.
ROBO-SQUASH can be played either against the computer or another player. The computer opponent is good, but not unbeatable -- like video tennis games, alternating volleys to extreme ends of the arena can trip it up. Human opponents, though, are another matter; use strategic shots (to set up vision-blocking splotches) or fireballs (exploding bricks obscure the view temporarily) to distract your opponent.
One minor annoyance: You can angle the return of the ball by hitting it on the edge of the padde OPPOSITE from where you want to go (make it go down by hitting it with the top edge, for instance). Once you understand it, ball control is easy -- but until then, it's a mystery. The manual is of little help here.
From an original name of "3D Barrage", ROBO-SQUASH makes good use of the Lynx's scaing capabilites. The 3D effects of the game are very well done; the ball's size changes and the use of two ball shadows make it clear where the ball is, and the obscuring blotches are a neat idea. The rest of the graphics are functional, though the power-up icons are a bit cute (a dragon's head for the fireball launcher, for instance).
Sounds are passable but not notworthy, repeating the trend in PAPERBOY and XENOPHOBE. The actual gameplay is mostly silent, with only the sound of the bouncing ball and smashed bricks punctuating. The only real music comes in the opening title tune, and while it's nice, it's not enough.
A good, slightly above-average game. Playing it by yourself is fine, since the difficulty levels let you tune the computer to your skills. I suspect, though, that playing it with another person would be more fun. Best for players who are looking for a sports-type game for the Lynx (at least until TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL comes out).
GAMEPLAY: 7 to 8 (depending on difficulty/number of players) GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 6 OVERALL: 7