Well, my homebrew Bally Astrocade controller didn't work as well as I had hoped.
Each component works well enough, but it's hard to steady the box while trying to press the button, use the paddle-knob and use the joystick at the same time. For such a situation, nothing beats the original controller. Fortunately, I was able to get one repaired by cleaning its potentiometer and trying the WD-40 trick. So, I let my son use the "official" and I use the Frankenstien'd one.
The other problem with the homebrew controller is the Atari Paddle controllers don't use the same potentiometer as the Bally, so its range of reading is different. It does cover the whole "gamerange" of motion, smoothly, too, but it only covers about a fourth of the entire spin. Y'know what I mean? To explain it better: A potentiometer adds resistance to a circuit and the videogames measure that resistance to determine the position of the paddle. The Atari paddle must have a broader range of resistance than the Bally programs test for. If the range of values for the Atari paddle was between 1 and 100 then the Bally must only be looking between 37 and 63. I'm only making those numbers up to try to explain to you what it feels like.
I should note: I'm not a sports fan. I will never schedule time to turn on the TV and "watch the game." I don't "get" the whole "root, root, root for the home team" concept. Throughout my gaming experience, I have never sought out a sports title to play because I liked a particular sport. So, staring at a "Football" title does not elicit any sort of male, "ooo, I get to play me a sports videogame!" type of joy.
Turns out, however, that the Bally plays a good game of Football.
After the player on offense chooses a running play, a portion of the football field is put on the screen along with the players from both teams (blue vs. yellow). You can't control the various players that protect the quarterback, but you do control your quarterback. When you move the joystick, the ball snaps back to your quarterback and your receivers start running the pattern of the play you've called. The plays are all printed out in your playbook, so, in theory you know where they'll be running. While you're waiting for them to get into place, you're in danger of getting sacked by a console controlled player called "mad dog", the one player that gets over your wall of, um, quarterback protectors. Your opponent controls the "cornerbacks", two football players that try to intercept the ball or tackle your receiver if he catches the ball.Your knob controls the direction your quarterback throws the ball, the joystick controls his movement and the trigger throws the ball, hopefully to one of your receivers. If they catch the ball, you then control them and run them down the field trying to avoid the cornerbacks.
EDIT: I forgot to mention that as you run down the field the field scrolls across the screen. Not a big deal, but I can't think of a prior game that features a scrolling playfield.
The ball switches between sides just as in the real game, you can even punt on the 4th down if the situation calls for it. No other "kicking" is implemented so no field goals, but that's a small loss in light of the rest of it. There's also the ability to play with four players, with two sharing control of each team. (I don't have the controller coverage to handle, that, though.)
I should mention, again, that the sound on the Bally is far beyond anything I've heard so far. The sound for this title is solid. The Star-Spangled Banner is played at the opening of the game and you hear the roar of the crowd. It's almost "stirring".
This is certainly one of the best sports titles we've played in 1978 or any year before it.
The Bally Professional Arcade could seriously beat the Atari VCS! No, really! It's got all those cool Bally/Midway arcade games draw from, it doesn't have a flicker issue and the sound is good! Atari only got a seven-month head-start, surely that isn't enough to bury a superior machine is it? Well, that being said, I'm going to wrap this up and go watch a program I recorded on our Betamax.
I think next entry is Red Baron for the Bally.