1-4 players, horizontal game
Atari Corp., for the Atari Lynx
As mankind moved into the 21st century, the task of keeping people entertained started to become a problem. The sports and games of yesteryear seemed boring and tame as the new generation wanted more action and danger. Since murder remains illegal, the solution fell to robots, who could offer the violence that the audience demanded while preserving human lives.
Welcome to the era of TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL, the explosive sequel to the CYBERBALL arcade game from Atari Games. This is a futuristic sports game with very close ties to American football. Two teams of robots play on a 100-yard field, trying to move a ball into the opponents' end zone. The ball heats up over time, so the offensive team must carry the ball far enough to cool it down, else face an explosion that destroys nearby players. Cheap mass-produced replacements are available, but smart coaches save their winnings to buy the better model players.
On the surface, TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL appears to be a decent adaptation. Up to four players can play, either against each other or versus one of four computer coaches. The defense has a fixed selection of moves, while the offensive choices are picked by the game from a larger pool, according to the situation. On the field, each player controls a robot, and are responsible for making the passes and blitzes needed. During the game, you earn money for specific scoring actions, such as interceptions and scoring. The game lasts for six periods, with opportunities to buy enhanced players throughout the game.
Scratch the surface, however, and the problems appear. There is no apparent difference in abilities between the teams, and the team-unique plays from the original are gone. Robots cannot be damaged, though an explosion will destroy the ball carrier. Handoffs are unpredictable, reducing the value of running plays, and while passes are effective, it's difficult to intercept the computer's throws. Opportunities for enhanced players appear throughout the game, but reduce the number of plays available until you accept. The pace of the game is a little too fast; more time to decide and choose plays would be welcome, and plays start as soon as all players are in position. These and other flaws reduce a great idea into a frustrating experience.
The graphics in TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL are passable, though little more. The robots are distinctive, but are otherwise nondiscrept, and appear a bit too small. The three-quarters perspective scrolling and the play selection screens are done well, but are nothing to shout about. Sound effects are of a similar nature, either using similar versions of the arcade sounds and music, or omitting them all together. On the plus side, some of the digitized voices have been preserved, though hearing "Three... six... hike!" on every play becomes irritating after a while.
TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL on the Lynx could have been a quality conversion; other Lynx titles have shown the potential of the system. This game seems to have been written by someone with little familliarity with the original, and the shortcomings show through. In the final analysis, the many fans of TOURNAMENT CYBERBALL should skip this conversion and stick to the arcade machine instead.
GAMEPLAY: 5.5 GRAPHICS: 7 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 6