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Wall Ball (Avalon Hill)

DoctorSpuds

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Okay so… When it comes to video games, or ideas in general, Original doesn’t always mean good. Sometimes it’s down to the execution of said idea, or the idea was just stupid in the first place. The realm, pertaining to gaming, where you see this most often in with game controllers, we’ve all seen some strange homunculus creature in the hands of some poor child who thinks they’re just bad at the game, but it also happens with games as well. Back when video games were a new media anything was possible and almost every genre was explored to some extent, even if the hardware simply couldn’t accommodate the game it was forced to run. This lead to some amazing problem solving, especially with the usage of fractals to run smooth playing 3D games almost a decade before true 3D rendered games were even a thing. But we’re not looking at the good today, which would be too predictable, so instead we’re looking at the bad.  Oddly enough the ‘bad’ for today also pertains to 3D and how it was shoehorned into game genres where it simply wouldn’t work and that brings me to the original and yet terrible Wall Ball by Avalon Hill.

From a graphical standpoint the game is quite nice. You are presented with a fairly minimalistic but stylish game screen. At the top and bottom of the screen are a series of brown and cyan rectangles that gradually get smaller and thinner and lighter as they approach the rear wall. The side walls are just left black which is alright as it gives a good amount of contrast with the paddle and ball for ease of play. The rear wall is a deep blue which also contrasts well with the ball and paddle and actually makes the whole scene look really nice. If nothing else I will concede that Wall Ball is a very pretty game albeit not a particularly detailed one. At the very top of the screen you’ll see your standard scoring information, levels, and balls left, it’s very understated and doesn’t interfere with the game in any way, which should be a given for any score. Will the sounds be as stylish as the graphics? I somehow doubt it but let’s check anyway.

The sounds are awful in Wall Ball, mainly because it has very few of them and the few that it does have are fairly terrible. All you’ll be hearing is a series of small chirps when the ball hits the walls and paddle as well as a terrible buzz when you miss a ball, which happens quite frequently as we’ll see an a little bit. Seriously, all you get are chirps, buzzes, and clangs, the stereotypical 2600 soundtrack. Alright let’s just get on with the travesty that is the gameplay.

Have you ever played Super Glove Ball? The Pack-in game for the miserable Power Glove is basically a rip-off of Wall Ball. 3D Breakout is all that this game is; you move a rectangle around the screen and hit a ball back and forth between yourself and the back wall and that’s pretty much it, no power-ups not bonuses, just this forever. A game like this does have potential as long as it’s executed properly, and if you read the intro paragraph for this review then you’ll know that Wall Ball was not. The scaling for the ball is horrendously choppy, and if you thought that Apollo’s Racquetball had too many indicators for the balls position then you’ll love Wall Ball because it has no indicators whatsoever. You just have to eyeball it and hope that you hit it, and that’s really hard to do when the ball moves and scales so incredibly choppily. To put into perspective just how hard it is to play this game you get 99 extra balls, on top of the one you start with that’s 100 attempts, has there ever been a game where the player is given 99 lives as standard? Because I think this might be the only one. I could go into the different difficulties, but I won’t because the starting difficulty is nearly unplayable, all you get are smaller paddles, faster balls, and fewer balls, and you can’t select your difficulty you have to wait for the game to automatically select it for you so if you miss it hit reset.

Wall Ball sucks, there’s no other easier way of putting it it’s just horrible, and coupled with the fact that you have to play it with a joystick makes it even worse. Unfortunately this is par for the course with Avalon Hill games, they were original and flashy but an absolute chore/bore to play, they just aren’t fun. If you’re determined to get a copy of this game for yourself then expect to pay quite a bit for even a loose copy. Loose copies hover around 30 dollars while boxed copies vary depending on condition but most are set at 100 dollars, there’s actually a NIB copy for 500 dollars if you want yours minty fresh but I get the feeling you aren’t insane. Yep, if the review didn’t already scream it, Wall Ball gets sent to the Collector’s Zone, it just sucks.

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Aww man, I liked this game! Oh wait, correction... I _wanted_ to like this game. It's one of those ones I purchased thinking I'd actually play for awhile, but instead just tested it to make sure it worked and shoved it on the shelf, and put the"enjoying it procedure" on indefinite hold. True chronic collector behavior.

 

I read as many reviews as I could before I dropped 20 bucks on this (which seems to be a bargain in light of this review, so yay). There was one I remember reading that reported that Wall Ball was THE game for the Atari 2600, and most, if not all, other games are derivative of Wall Ball.

 

I honestly couldn't tell if the reviewer was sincere, trolling or drunk... Or possibly all three. I'll post the link here if I can find the review. I don't know what the etiquette is on cross-referencing reviews, I'll leave it up to Dr Spuds.

 

I'll have to remember to do some deep browsing history searches to find it tho... Hope I remember tomorrow.

 

 

 

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On 7/19/2019 at 10:44 AM, CaptainBreakout said:

Ahh... Here's the review I was referring to. 9.5 out of 10 stars no less!

 

https://gamefaqs.gamespot.com/atari2600/585255-wall-ball/reviews/68994

 

 

It sounds like video game Stockholm Syndrome. This poor bastard was stuck with this game for so long that he began to actually like it. And the fact that he game it a 4.5/5 despite the pretty glaring negatives in the review, I'm guilty of that to I suppose but not to such an extent, simply reaffirms this. 

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