Bouncing balls were the revelation in games in 1986 and now we're well into '87 they're still going strong. Impossaball bears similarities to other bouncing-ball games in the recent past (Bounder, Trail Blazer, Revolution) but has astounding gameplay, a very tough challenge and some great new ideas going for it.
The action takes place on eight scrolling levels where you have to squash a set number of cylinders with the ball, avoid the obstacles and get to the finish, all within a time limit. The sideways scrolling is the first thing you'll notice because it's a bit jerky, but you'll find you won't notice this once you get really absorbed into the action.
The ball bounces continuously at a low height, but by holding down the fire button you can bounce it up higher. The floor and ceiling are chequered, the squares playing an important part in calculating jump length. The perspective in the side view is excellent, the ball and all the objects becoming smaller as they recede to the back of the playing area, but not shrinking so much as to be unplayable.
There are only three basic types of danger - but enough to create some wicked problems. There are spikes on top of pillars, plasma fields that look like wobbly ovals, and firebolts that jag out like bolts of lightning. The spikes are always in fixed positions but the plasma fields and firebolts often form tricky movement patterns. Some obstacles combine all three hazards, and the further you go the harder they get.
Getting past the dangers isn't enough either, because you've got to squash the cylinders that are usually dotted about among them. Sometimes they're on the floor and have to be bounced on; otherwise they're on the ceiling and have to be bounced up to.
Controlling the ball is easy but getting past some obstacles takes good timing and quick action. It's surprising how easy this is to pick up. Once you've learnt how to complete an obstacle you'll be able to get past it more and more often. The best part about the control is being able to change direction in the air so that skill 'on the ball' counts as well as timing.
You will also encounter magic rings that flash and, when bounced on, give you a time bonus. However, bounce on them again and you lose a life. Some problems involve bouncing on a ring in order to get at a cylinder, but you've got to be careful not to hit it again on the way down.
The time given for each level seems to tick away frighteningly fast. But on the starting levels it's quite generous once you know what you're doing. The levels do get tough, but because it's a matter of solving problems and learning your way through the levels, you'll keep getting that bit better.
Apart from the scrolling the graphics are good, particularly due to the excellent perspective view. The sound effects are adequate with a title tune as well, but they're nothing special. This is one of those games that gets classed as frustrating but very addictive. Every life you lose will frustrate you but you'll always come back for another go because you know you can crack the problem.
Boing, boing, baddoing... I thought I would be extremely ill on seeing another bouncing-ball game. That was until my eyes fastened themselves on Impossaball - it's nothing short of brilliant! All action is viewed from the side, with a great 3D perspective: everything is drawn to a vanishing point deep in the screen. Can you afford to miss this game? I think not!
Clear, clear, clear.
P. Great perspective view.
N. Jerky scrolling.
N. Unimpressive title tune and effects.
Grab Factor 94%
P. Very easy and responsive controls.
P. Problems hook you immediately.
Staying Power 90%
P. Eight very tough levels.
N. Slightly lacks variety.
Excellent new variation on the bouncing-ball theme.