The avalanche of footie sims this year has hidden the fact that there haven't been any unusual ball games around for ages. After the release of Ballistix last year, novel ball games just about disappeared. Now programming team Eldritch the Cat have come up with a ball game exploring new territory.
Projectyle differs from Speedball and Ballistix in two ways. For a start, it can be played by three people at once - two using the joystick and one on the keyboard. Secondly the control of the ball is unlike anything else you've seen. If you're one of those players who always has trouble steering close to the ball then Projectyle is a dream to use. When you hit the fire button you zoom straight to the ball. For more subtle movements, such as defending the goalmouth, use the joystick.
The pitch is divided into five sections; four outer areas are linked by tunnels to a single central arena. In three of the four tunnels there is only one goalmouth, but in the fourth tunnel (appropriately called the frantic zone) there are three - one for each player.
The objective is to shoot the ball through your opponents' goals and defend your own. The game can be played as an eight-player league or as a practice session. When time runs out on one pitch, you advance onto the next. A variety of pitches with different bounce and skid factors ensures each level is unique.
Fast scrolling has always been the hardest thing to achieve on the ST. Ardent gamesters should be able to remember a game called Titan from Titus which featured full-screen, four directional scrolling that moved at a super-fast rate. Projectyle not only matches that speed... it beats it!
There's even one level which offers parallax scrolling. As you hurtle across the screen a series of interlaced lines moves over the top of a metallic background distorting the field's perspective. The effect sends your eyes spinning.
The unusual method of ball control means that winning your first few games has more to do with luck than skill. It's only as you begin to formulate strategies - like waiting in front of goal - that you begin to appreciate the finer points of Projectyle. This makes the game appealing, not only to those who've never played a computer game in their entire lives, but also to experienced gamesters who've left their names in many a high-score table.
The game starts head and shoulders above ball games such as Ballistix, which never quite held your interest. Fervent addicts of Speedball may feel that there's too much luck involved and not enough player control. Nevertheless, Projectyle successfully marries the magnetism of Arkanoid with the speed of Titan to come up with one of the finest ST ball games ever.