Transball (Villar) (MSX)
Reviewed By Dave E In EGG #006: MSXTransball
Transball is a new game for the MSX produced by Villar Software and it's basically a version of the classic Thrust. And, for the benefit of those of you who have either lived in a cave for the past three decades, or forgotten those computer gems of your youth, Thrust is the one with caverns, gravity, lots of careful inch-by-inch manoeuvring and spheres which must be liberated to the top of the screen.
The age-old formula is applied with one large modification in Transball, and the action takes place in the MSX's seven colour mode with 8x8 CHR$ definitions taking the place of the vectors which defined the original. You spin a cyan ship through 360 degrees, trying not to collide with the walls of the caverns, biding your time near to the forcefield-style doors and shooting any gun turrets that give you a hard time.
I've played a few versions of Thrust over the years and Transball combines a great deal of elements that make it one of the most infuriating. Firstly, the ship is overly sensitive, rotating very quickly on its origin and leaping forward with what feels like 645 horsepower at the slightly touch of the thrust control. This takes quite a bit of getting used to. However, you might just master it... were it not for the jumpy vertical and horizontal scrolling. The best I could say about this scrolling is that it's disconcerting. I'm sure others would say a lot worse.
Now these two features make Transball needlessly difficult. Not impossible by any means, but they grate the player somewhat. There's another problem too. Your ship is almost triangular and, particularly if your attention wanders for a fraction of a second, it's sometimes hard to even tell which direction it's pointing in. The original Thrust's ship has a distinct nick where the thrusters were and I never encountered this problem when playing it.
If you can stomach the nail-biting crusade through the caverns to begin your "trans"fer of the "ball" (as per the game's name) to the top of the screen, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that, unlike Thrust, all you need to do in Transball is fly close to it for it to immediately attach itself. This is the large modification to which I referred earlier. There is no dropping of a lasso or Thrust-style tractor beam here. The ball simply turns blue to indicate a successful capture. Indeed, there's no corporeal connection between the ship and ball at all; its colour is the only visual cue - and your ship's grip on the ball can be easily broken if you simply thrust in one direction a little bit too fast. Doing so can easily see your prize flung off into a different section of cavern and you'll then have to spend precious time retrieving it.
Having said all that, one thing the game does have going for it is an amazing intro which includes a cool variation of Eighties music classic Flashdance: What A Feeling. It also has a large number of levels, a password system and no lives system (it simply lets you keep trying the level you've reached until you complete it or quit the whole game).
The game itself doesn't quite pass muster though, being too tough for all but the most hardened arcade addict.