Professional, Originally Released On Cassette Only
Game Type : Arcade Pinball
Author : Steve Evans
Standalone Release(s) : 1986: MICROBALL, Alternative, £1.99
Compilation Release(s) : 1990: SPORTS SPECTACULAR, Alternative, £7.95
Stated compatibility : Electron/BBC Dual Version
Actual compatibility : Electron, BBC B, B+ and Master 128
Supplier : ALTERNATIVE, Units 3-6 Baileygate Industrial Estate,
Pontefract, WEST YORKSHIRE WF8 2LN. Tel: 07977 79777
Disc compatibility : CDFS E00, DFS E00
"With all the features, speed and nerve shattering excitement of the original, this superb new arcade pinball game is destined to become an all-time great. Five balls per game."
Press P to start the game. Pressing P more than once will allow 2, 3 or 4 player games.
Hitting various targets on the pintable will increase the bonus and hitting all five drop targets on the left of the table will advance the bonus multiplier. If the bonus multiplier is on '5x' and all five drop targets are hit, then an extra ball will be awarded. Other bonuses include:
Lighting A B C scores 5,000. The right flipper rotates the A B C lights.
Lighting A B C or hitting the centre drop targets advances the bonus.
Landing on a saucer trap advances the bonus, but if the bonus already stands at 20,000, then the bonus, including the multiplier, will be collected.
Lighting 100 causes the bumpers to score 100 instead of 10 when hit. Extra balls can be obtained at 250,000, 480,000 and 720,000.
Only one extra ball, per ball, is allowed. The ball is returned if it is lost without scoring.
Try to advance the bonus multiplier. 5x bonus is better than 1x. If you manage to advance the bonus to 20,000, go for the saucer traps to collect the bonus. Make good use of the rotating A B C lights.
Left Flipper - SHIFT Start Game - P
Right Flipper - COPY Tilt - CTRL
Pull Plunger - SPACE Reset Game - R
Instructions' Source : MICROBALL (Alternative) Inner Inlay
Ever since the advent of home computers, there have been attempts to emulate the arcade hall pinball game on them. Although the prerequisites of flippers, ball, bonuses and (most important) gravity have been present in all of them, there are many more elements that need to be studied carefully to perfect the experience. The games have something of a specialist audience (presumably pinball addicts who want to achieve the dizzy heights of the Elton John song) and just one rebound inconsistent with reality will send them back to the real thing howling with disbelief at the programmer's incompetence, as was the case with at least two Amiga titles. These had dazzling graphics but corners which ricocheted the ball at an angle of 90 degrees!
But to disprove the adage "size matters", the acclaimed MICROBALL from Alternative Software is not cursed with any bug in its grasp of the law of physics. This budget title (which originally retailed for just £1.99) has few competitors and can confidently claim to be the best of the BBC bunch. It's a smooth and perfectly timed machine code extravaganza, nicely presented on screen, has some fantastic sound effects and a dazzling display of real and virtual Mode 2 colours.
After loading (about three minutes from tape), a fully functional pinball table, complete with three vibrating buzzers, eight drop targets and a lightable A-B-C bonus temptingly jangles away on the right, while simulated rotating LCD displays flick between the current scores for four players (which are 000000 when you begin) and the highest scores so far for the four (likewise 250000) in big displays on the left. Below these are similar big graphics showing the number of the current ball (each player has five) and a reminder of the scores you must achieve to obtain an extra ball.
Pleasingly, the gap between the flippers at the bottom of the pinball table is not of a woefully big size; just six pixels wider than the ball. Also, the compartments on each side of the flippers where the ball will be lost if it bounces into them are quite well protected and even contain bonuses. So, even though you may be unlucky enough to lose the sphere into onto of them, you will gain 2,000 points as a little compensation.
To begin the game, you press P a number of times equivalent to the number of players in an orderly queue behind your machine. The LCD scores on the left disappear and reappear accordingly, "Ball 1" is displayed and the ball sprite appears in the plunger on the extreme right of the table. You power the plunger by pressing and holding space for as long as you desire; this action brings about quite an atmospheric string of notes that really let you know you're in for something special.
As for what happens when you release the ball, it's certainly not dull! The speed of the game is such that the machine is practically "zip"ing, "bonk!"ing (well, a low monotonous note), "vibrating" (a great sound effect that comes about on contact with the buzzers), "tick-tock"-ing as it clocks up points or "beep"ing as targets are hit. With the little Electron, the game is probably one of the best available that manage to make great use of the limited sound - and it gives the experience a real lift. A flaw is that unfortunately it cannot be turned off.
While I am no pinball wizard, with the combination of luck and skill similarly required at a real table, I managed to wipe out successive drop targets, which appear on a board on the left of the table as five little yellow rectangles which disappear when hit, until the Bonus Multiplier hit "* 5". This gives not only an extra ball but also a feast of special graphic and sound displays. As with the real game though, it is sometimes a matter of pure chance whether or not you will achieve a high score. On subsequent games I wasn't even fortunate to get the Bonus Multiplier to the first stage ("* 2")!
Great as the arcade quality feel of the game is, there is a bug in there. You may choose up to four players by pressing the P key when prompted to play. However, the option is not disenabled whenever a ball is lost and play once again ceases until the pull the plunger to release the subsequent one. Therefore, you may choose a one player game, lose a ball and hit "P" instead of RETURN for the next one - this is not such a silly mistake to make either! Whereupon player two lights up on ball one and you must continue to play (as this player) before you come to the same situation again. If you do hit the right key this time (i.e. RETURN, not "P"), you will unfortunately see player one's score reset to 000000, losing all of your well-earned points from the previous ball!
It's not a big deal considering if you remember to press RETURN and not "P", it never rears its head, but it is there and it does spoil what is otherwise an error-trapped environment.
MICROBALL was, and still is, a highly recommended pinball simulator with great graphics, fantastic sound and addictive gameplay. Despite the high luck element involved in a game, it doesn't have a high frustration factor, which is no mean feat. The only quibble you will have is the bugged "P" key routine and also, that if you are fortunate enough to be a pinball wizard used to all-singing, all-dancing numbers, you may find it repetitive after a while. A bizarre final point is that I tend to find this game more playable if I stand before the machine to play it. Now who's a perfectionist...?
Dave Edwards, EUG #58