Do you remember a game called Crossfire? A perennial favourite, it must have lain under several million Christmas trees in its time. Consisting of a plastic pitch with two guns at either end, the object was to fire ball bearings from your gun and hit a puck, guiding it into your opponent's goal mouth. Crossfire was the most fun any child could have without explosives and the cause of many a red raw finger and Boxing Day barney. Ballistix is, very roughly the same thing. Of course Psyclapse have tarted it up and added the usual apocalyptic scenario, but the aim remains to blast the ball down the other end and into the goal.
There are a number of options to the game. You can choose to fire from an arrow which can be moved around the pitch by your joystick, or shoot from your own goal and control the direction in a similar manner. The latter makes it more difficult to score, but the former is more manoeuvrable. It isn't that easy to control the ball because the ball bearings you fire are nearly as big as the ball itself. The result in the two player version is a frenetic scramble as balls fly everywhere, ricocheting off each other and often knocking the ball in the opposite direction from that which you intended.
The one player game is very different. The ball seems to have a mind of its own and the result is a bit like trying to kick a football up a particularly slippery slope. There are 50 levels in the one-player game and 80 in the two player version and all of them are covered with obstacles and diversions such as bumpers, troughs, magnets, acid pools and hyperspace tunnels. If that wasn't enough, icons regularly appear which can be activated by shooting balls at them. Shields, splitters and bombs which spit ball bearings all over the park are just a few examples. You can also collect the letters of the word RICOCHET for a hefty points bonus.
Ballistix remains, in essence, a very simple game and as such, it's well executed. There's not one but three superbly drawn opening screens and there are plenty of nice little touches like the scorpion-
Graphically, it's reminiscent of Speedball with similar quality of definition, but the game itself is nowhere near as challenging in its gameplay.
On the faster screens the pace is a blistering assault on the senses. Do not try crossing any busy roads after an extended session of this. Ballistix may be faster, but lorries hurt more. It's a highly compelling game, but your lack of control over the ball can turn into frustration. Ballistix is well up to the usual excellent standards of Psygnosis' releases, but being based on a game that's about fifteen years old, it's hardly likely to be original. We're all waiting for the computer version of Mousetrap next.