Author: Mark Caswell
Publisher: Ocean
Machine: Spectrum 48K/128K

Published in Crash #50


Dust Brain is a ball among balls on the planet Orb. But can he conquer the career mountain and become top dog on this planet of rotundity?

At least it's a bit easier than locating the voice of centrist liberalism. You see, Orb is a planet of solid platforms and black grid areas into which other Madballs can be knocked and captured by Dust Brain - to sit upon his potential planet-ruling cabinet. This hooligan political team sits in a tube beneath the main screen.

After trapping a captive from one level, Dust Brain can begin his search for another cabinet member by finding an exit and moving to the next level.


But its 'do as you would be done by' on democratic Orb, and all the other Madballs are out to knock their compatriot off the platforms. And our hero can only survive the fall if he has already captured other Madballs - each one captured gives him an extra life.

All the Madballs interact, bouncing off each other and the scenery according to their relative speed and strength. For instance, the stronger a Madball, the more difficult it is to deflect from its path.

And trampolines, springboards, catapults, ramps, pyramids and oil slicks all can all bring a little extra bounce, speed and direction into the Madballs' lives.


But even globes need a gobble, and the Madballs' different nutritional requirements - which range from cabbages to fish heads and bones to Coke - can be gathered to increase their energy. (Every Madball has its own energy level, indicated by a revolving striped pole.)

As Dust Brain plies his career path through this world of lovable bouncers - originally a TV cartoon, then a range of toys - he can stack up points by squashing fried eggs and knocking off Madballs and the universally hated 'undistinguished Bureaucrats'.


Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: monochromatic play area viewed from above, detailed balls
Sound: wild and wacky... but not very good

Mark ... 70%


'Like Gremlin Graphics's Smashed Bounder, Madballs is difficult to control at first, especially as your fellow balls are trying to knock you off your rather precarious perch. But after a few games you can give the enemies a taste of their own medicine. The graphics are very good the ball even appears to grow larger and smaller as it bounces up and down, in true Bounder style. And there's a boppy little tune on the title screen and effective sproinging sound effects. Madballs may not be subtle or demanding enough for some, but it's instantly playable.'

Gordon ... 59%

'Madballs is a curious licence, an odd mixture of the Bounder format and the Motos-style arcade game. It has all the ingredients of success: an interesting scenario, strong, individual characters, and excellent packaging. But the game is nowhere near as good as the promise. Graphically it's reasonable - the faces on the Madballs are well-animated and neatly drawn, and they have a certain cutesy appeal. The backgrounds are poor in comparison (very tediously similar landscapes with no real 3-D effect), though the scrolling works smoothly. But the major letdown is the gameplay. The control-methods awkward: if you push the joystick in any direction and let go, the Madball doesn't stop but continues another inch, and this lack of precision spoils a game where accuracy of movement and positioning is called for. So you can have an awful lot of very quick and frustrating games trying to orient yourself, and ultimately Madballs doesn't really deserve all that attention.'

Mike ... 66%

'At first Madballs is very pleasing: the graphics are pretty, there's an excellent tune accompanying the title screen, and there's plenty to do. But the monochrome is a bit trying - all that blue begins to hurt! - and though Madballs is basically good the fun soon bounces away.'

Mark CaswellMike DunnGordon Houghton

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