Shatterball 0.29a

Shatterball 0.29a
Shareware: $5.00

Adam: Shatterball has always been one of my favorites when it comes to shareware games. I’ve had the game since 1993, when I bought my first Macintosh, a Performa 450. It has moved with me through a Power Mac 6100/60, and now to a Performa 6400. I have to say that it has never caused a crash, ever. Yes, even though it was written in 1993 (and updated in 1995), it still works perfectly on my Power Mac. And that’s only the beginning.

Mike: Normally, I’m a little hesitant to trust any piece of software that has a version number of 0.29a, so I was a little bit wary of this game, even after Adam said I simply HAD to try it out. It was with low expectations (and my sheet of troubleshooting tips and tricks in hand) that I double-clicked on the Shatterball icon. I was not expecting much from this game, and I half-expected it to crash my machine. (0.29a? Does that stand for “alpha?” Yikes!)

After a quick run-through with the program, however, it became apparent that I should’ve trusted Adam. He had picked a great game to review this month, and one that’s actually pretty polished. It just has a really weird version number.

OK, now, as for what it is. Shatterball is part Breakout, part ping-pong, entirely three-dimensional, and a whole lot of fun. You are given a paddle of sorts to control (using the mouse), and need to either hit a ball, or catch and throw it, against a set of bricks, all of which must be destroyed for you to clear a stage. What sets this game apart from, say, MacBrickout or Mortal Pongbat, is the fact that it is played using a first-person perspective. Your paddle is situated at the “front” of the playing area ( it is frontmost on the monitor, as if you were playing a game like DOOM or Marathon), and you must hit the ball forward against the walls or bricks. There are always several levels of bricks to clear in a stage, with each level being a slightly different geometric design.

Adam: Mike likes to call it “ping-pong,” but I like to call it a “racquet ball” type game, only the mouse controls the paddle. To control the ball, you use your “grabs” to catch it, and then throw it. Watch out though, because if you run out of grabs, you won’t be able to catch and throw the ball again, and you will be stuck. The number of lives you have works on the same system. If the ball gets by your paddle, you lose a life, and when you run out of lives, the game is over.

To gain extra lives and paddles, you have to hit a colored “patch” (as I like to call it), at the back of the tunnel. Then it sends a ball out, so you can catch it. But you have to keep hitting the real ball against the bricks while you are trying to get this extra ball. Needless to say, it can get very intense at times.

There is a high score record for each level. After you’re done destroying all the bricks, if that time beats the previous time, or if there was no previous time, you set the record for that level. If you beat all the stages, or levels during the same game, you become a “big stage champ”

Mike: You can control how fast or slow the pace of the game is by how hard you throw the ball. So, you can make the game either a fast-paced, total reflex/reaction oriented game, or a slower game hinging more on ball placement and strategy. I find the fast tactic to be the more fun of the two, but also the more frustrating — be prepared to lose a lot of balls quickly, because they really start to move fast! It can be easy to clear a stage using a slow, deliberate pattern, but it’s also kind of boring. For the best mix of action and stage clearing, employ a good helping of both.

Game options include being able to set both the size and power of your paddle. (You want a real challenge? Make your paddle really, really small, but really, really powerful. Then throw the ball as hard as you can, so it goes really fast. Now, try to stay alive for more than one or two ricochets. I dare you.) High scores and fastest times are also kept for each stage.

You can save a game in progress, so you don’t have to beat all the stages in one sitting. A very nice feature is the ability to start at any stage you like, and pick them as you go along. The nonlinear game play allows you to sample all 24 stages as you like, rather than having to go through the first ones time and time again.

The graphics and sounds are nothing to write home about, but they aren’t bad, and certainly don’t hurt the game play at all. Shatterball is a fun, worthwhile game, and the author, Christopher Gross, is only asking $5.00 for it. In my opinion, it’s money well spent.

Adam: Now here’s a first. I don’t agree with Mike on his opinion of the sound, but I can see why. The graphics are not bad. Except for the black and white startup screen, they are very good. As for the sound, if you have a Power Mac, or an AV model, your sound will play in stereo if you have two external speakers (or speakers built into your monitor). Stereo means that as the ball hits a brick on the left side of the screen, it comes out of the left speaker, and the same goes for hitting a brick on the right side. Very cool!

Mike: Shatterball is well worth a look. Now, if only Mr. Gross would decide to name it using an integer for the version number, I would have no complaints at all. 🙂

Adam: Like I said above, I love Shatterball. I always have, I always will. It has a concept that is unlike any shareware game I have ever seen. It has great sound, and supports all Macintosh computers. If you get hooked on it, Shatterball is a game that will have a permanent place on your hard drive. It has one on mine! Shatterball is an all-around winner. Go download it!

Shatterball is available on America Online by doing a keyword software search for “Shatterball,” and on the internet, at the My Mac Software Library, in the games section. The $5.00 shareware price is well worth it, a true bargain for a game of this quality.

Leave a Reply