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Alive SE - EIL 2001

---   F O R    N U O N    B A S E D    M A C H I N E S ---

                                  Part 1

Ballistic by Infogrames/Samsung
# of players: 1-2
Pack-in with Samsung Extiva

Graphics - Ballistic's graphics look like... Well, a Playstation game.
That's probably because it is a port of a Playstation game. Large, blocky
pixels are evident. There is some slowdown in multi-player. To it's
defense, the game is as colorful as it could be. Red, Yellow, Blue and
Purple balls are the star of the show here, and they look as colorful as
NUONly possible in this situation. The framerate isn't too good, it isn't
too bad, either. It's right in the middle between average Playstation game
bad and smooth. The game obviously doesn't take advantage of the NUON's
processing power, and we can probably chalk this up to it being the first
game for the system, and it originally being a Playstation game.

Sound/Music - Ballistic's music is enjoyable. There is only one track,
either that or they all sound the same. The music is your standard reggae
fare, which felt quite refreshing for a game like this. The sound basically
consists of the multi-colored balls clacking together, or the combos
exploding. Not much past that. The music and sounds sound very crisp, and
they suit the game very well.

Control/Gameplay - Ballistic's gameplay is reminiscent of the classic Neo
Geo puzzler Puzzle Bobble. Actually, it's almost identical to Puzzle
Bobble. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just not a terribly
original thing. The gameplay in Puzzle Bobble, for you sadly misinformed,
consisted of the multi-colored balls arranged at the top of the screen,
with Bub and Bob at the bottom-middle of the screen with their ball
cannon. Balls would be launched to the top of the screen at any angle, and
chains of the same colored ball would cause the balls to explode. In
Ballistic, the balls slide down a chute from the edge of the screen,
arranging in a neat spiral around your Bub and Bob-less cannon which is
afixed in the center of the spiral. The balls are fired outward toward the
spiral or balls, and any combo of 3 or more like-colored balls causes them
to dissapear, and the spiral closes up giving you more time before they
reach the center. There are also "bomb-balls" and "flashy-balls" which are
derivative (read: directly lifted) from Puzzle Bobble. The flashy-balls,
when fired, destroy every ball on screen of similar color to the ball they
attach to. They seriously help you out in Ballistic, as they did in Puzzle
Bobble. My constant references to Puzzle Bobble do not mean that it is a
direct copy, Ballistic's gameplay is somewhat original, although
derivitave of many other Puzzle games. It borrows from games such as Puyo
Puyo and Magical Drop. Not every puzzle game is original, though. It's the
classics, like Columns, which break new ground and live forever.

Funfactor - It's not too original, but it's fun. Most puzzle games with a
semi-original method of play are fun. Ballistic borrows from a tried-and-true
classic formula (how many sequels to Puzzle Bobble were there?) and it does
it well. You'll find yourself stuck playing Ballistic for quite a while,
because it is a very fun game. Multiplayer is also very fun, although the
spirals look more like ovals and there is evidence of some slowdown, it
provided for many intense rounds of fun.

Replay Value - Puzzle Games are based solely on the central gameplay. As
long as the central idea works, the game will work and it will be
replayable. Graphics and Sound are merely icing on the cake for games like
this, and that's why they are made. Every once in a while we get a classic
with an ingenious groundbreaking idea, like Tetris, and every once in a
while we get a good honest attempt at fusing ideas together while not
being too terribly original, like Ballistic.

Graphics- 7
Sound/Music- 8.5
Control/Gameplay- 8
Funfactor- 8
Replay Value- 8.5
Overall- 80%

                                 Part 2
Puzzle Players Unite!

Ballistic is the exciting new action puzzle game everyone's talking about!
It's simple to play and offers endless hours of fun. Your goal is to keep
the balls from reaching the center gate. The objective of the game is to
rotate the launcher and shoot the balls into the constantly growing string
of balls. Matching 3-of-a-kind creates a "chain reaction" and makes them
dissapear. Combine multiple chains for even more points!


   * 1 or 2 Players
   * Three Fun Game Modes:
   * - Panic: Face a never-ending string of balls
   * - Stage: Clear a stage, then move on to the next.
   * - VS: Duke it out with another player on split-screen.
   * 3 Challenging levels of difficulty!
   * Addictive fun for the whole family!

Here we have the very first full-game release for NUON enhanced DVD
players (a.k.a. DVD Interactive), Ballistic. From Mitchell Corporation and
Infogrames comes a port of the addictive puzzle game featured on
gaming-specific consoles such as the PlayStation. The game comes packed-in
with the Samsung Extiva DVD-N2000 DVD player, and makes for a nice,
addicting puzzler but is not without its flaws.

Ballistic puts you smack dab in the middle of a spiral of ever-oncoming
multi-colored balls that you must shoot and match up three or more of the
same color to eliminate, in order to prevent the chain of balls from
reaching the middle of the spiral. You take on the roll of a turret gun
stationed in the middle of the spiral and rotate around blasting balls
maniacally to achieve the high score.

There are three variations of the game: Panic, Stage and Versus. Panic
mode has you battling an endless string of balls that start off slow but
gains speed as you make more and more matches and eliminate more balls.
This mode gets hectic very fast, but is a ton of fun.

Stage mode sees you facing challenges one-at-a-time. Again, the difficulty
increases as you progress, but rather than having just one endless string
of balls, there is a finite number in each stage and when you eliminate
the entire string, you move onto the next stage.

Vs. mode is where 2 players can battle it out for Ballistic supremacy,
though the lack of NUON peripheral retailers makes this mode impossible to
try out since I am unable to procure a second controller. However if this
Vs. mode is half as addicting as Bust-A-Move I'd consider it a winner.

Graphically, this game leaves much to be desired. The low-resolution
graphics could definitely be a lot better, they don't appear to be
optimized for the NUON processor at all. Menus and high score screens are
pretty basic, and again could be higher in resolution and detail. The
static screens should at least look as sharp as the opening Samsung logo
on the player when you first turn it on. Also, the game tends to sloooow
down to a near-crawl when the screen fills up with balls. This actually
seems to help out the player, however, as it gives you a bit more time to
get in a few extra shots and try to keep the chain from reaching the
middle. It does seem a bit counteractive, though, since in Tetris the
bricks drop faster when you reach the top of the screen, one would imagine
this was the same type of effect they were trying to achieve with this
game, as the music speeds up to give you that -uh-oh- feeling. The
slowdown just kills the whole panic effect.

Generic Reggae music bumps along as you play, though the quality varies.
Some songs sound great while others seem a bit muddy. Certain songs don't
loop very well either, which can be distracting. The same quality issues
fall into place for the sound effects as well - some just seem out of
place. The in-game sounds are generally good, but the menu select sound
just irks me, doesn't seem right.

Despite its flaws, this is one addicting game. In the vein of some classic
puzzler greats, this game just begs you to keep playing, and play you
will. If you've ever played Tetris until your eyes were bugging out, or
battled your friends at the Neo-Geo coin op at Bust-A-Move endlessly,
you'll get the same enjoyment out of Ballistic. Samsung picked a great
game to pack-in with it's player, but there is definitely room for
improvement on this one.

Graphics- 4
Poor, low-resolution graphics and slowdown are no help in this department.
Next time optimize the game for NUON please.

Sound/Music- 5
Decent music, ok sound effects. More consistency in the quality would be
nice, but not bad.

Control- 8
Great for the most part, but the turret can seem just a hair sluggish at

Fun Factor- 9
This is Ballistic's strong point. Fun, addicting puzzling at it's best.
You'll enjoy this one.

Overall (not an average)- 80%

                               Part 3

Overview: Here it is, what you've all been waiting for, the first ever
review of a NUON game. In this case, the game is Ballistic by Infogames &
Mitchell Corp, the pack-in for the Samsung DVD-N2000, also known as the
Extiva. While puzzlers are definitely a popular genre among the hardcore
and casual gamer alike, one has to wonder why you'd include one as a
pack-in. Historically, the pack-in has been 'showpiece' quality software,
a game that shows what the hardware is capable of. When you consider the
fact that Ballistic is a barebones, direct port from the Sony Playstation
version, with no attempt at upgrading the graphics with any NUON-specific
effects, you have something of a disappointment on your hands. That being
said, Ballistic *IS* an enjoyable game, and if you're going to do a port,
it might as well be of a quality game.

Graphics: 4.5 Let be frank, graphically, there is absolutely nothing about
Ballistic that would in any way convince you that you're playing a NUON
game. This is a straight port from the Playstation, and to be honest, it's
obvious this could be done on a system much less powerful that even it.
Polygons, voxels, raytracing? Forget any of that, Ballistic is a straight
forward sprite-based puzzler, which wouldn't be a problem if they looked
nice and smooth, but in this case, everything, from the rotating turret to
the balls themselves have a rather jagged look to them, which is surprising
all things considered. Explosions are also composed of rather unimpressive
sprites. All-in-all, Ballistic does nothing to show the player anything
that hasn't been done before, and done better.

Sound: 6.0 The sound, from the explosions, chimes and music, are all
rather run-of-the-mill. While never truly annoying, the music has a very
happy tone to it which can become a bit grating with a game that can be
quite frustrating in later levels. Explosions are rather weak-sounding as
well, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Ballistic is a game that fails
to take advantage of the inherent advantages of the DVD format, both
visually and aurally.

Gameplay: 7.0 While Ballistic may not look or sound particularly good, it
does play fairly well, which is the primary factor. The basic premise is
to match balls of the same color in chains of three or more as they come
down a circling pipe that leads to your ball-launcher/turret. Doing so
makes the balls disappear from the playfield, resulting in points for you,
the player. As soon as they disappear, the balls behind the chain quickly
spring forward in their place. This can result in more chains if the balls
before the chain are the same color, and it is indeed this aspect that
creates the strategic aspect of the game. By setting up your chains
carefully, you can set up chain combos that result in larger point totals.
The premise is simple, and easy to get the feel of, but don't let that
fool you, as the levels quickly become more difficult. There are three
modes, Panic, where you must deal with a never-ending supply of balls,
Level, which is very much the same, only with short interludes and extra
features, and the VS. mode. While the 2 player VS. mode is good, until
someone releases more controllers, the 2nd player is at a distinct
disadvantage they're forced to play with the remote, which is not ideal
for this kind of game.

Theme: 7.5 Puzzlers are a popular genre that has a wide range of appeal,
from casual to hardcore, young and old. While there is a timeless quality
to these games (just look at how many systems games like Tetris and Puzzle
Bobble/Bust-A-Move have been ported to), they also can get quite old for
most people in a rather short period of time. Still, it's good, clean fun
that is aimed squarely at VM Labs' primary demographic, which is, in the
long run, a good thing for NUON owners.

Overall: 6.5 Ballistic is a good game, but definitely not a great one, and
while it's arguable whether or not its at a level of quality needed for
NUON games, it is an enjoyable diversion, if only for a short while. It is
a shame that the developers failed to implement any kind of NUON-specific
effects, but when taken for what it is, a direct port of a good game, it's
not that disappointing. VM Labs went to great strides to make existing
Playstation games easily portable to NUON, and this is a product of that.
Ballistic won't win any awards, but it should provide early adopters of
the Samsung Extiva with just enough to sink their teeth into before the
real games, namely Tempest 3000, Merlin Racing & Freefall (November 28th),
hit store shelves. -

Final Grade: 67%

Alive SE - EIL 2001