ZauberBall'23 for Atari 8-bits computers | Review


Get ready for a magical and colorful adventure, where you and your cat will be the heroes restoring joy to Wizworld.

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ZAUBERBALL'23

Published by: Oliver "C3PU" Cyranka (Germany).
Genre: Shooter, Strategy.
Extra: 2 players, joystick.

THE STORY

Wiz and his faithful cat have always lived peacefully in a magical forest in a place called Wizworld. One day, the evil wizard DRAZIWLIVE came to take away all its colors and transformed Wizworld into a dull and ugly place. In reality, Wiz is a kind and peaceful guy who prefers playing Atari, but now, along with his feline companion, they've decided to teach DRAZIWLIVE a lesson and reclaim all the colors for beautiful Wizworld.

GAME DYNAMICS

ZauberBall'23 is a mix of shoot 'em up and strategic elements, challenging the player to color six complete levels with three specific colors each. Completing the task involves, on one hand, controlling a magical bouncing ball to annihilate enemies, collect bonuses, and activate power-ups. On the other hand, shooting color drops, collecting them with your satellite, and filling the pots with red, green, and blue colors.


Through the craters of volcanoes on the ground, you can switch between six different game worlds (levels). In each, you can collect drops of primary colors—which, when combined, yield the required target color in the fourth pot. The required color amounts are shown in each game level through a strip next to the color pots. The right strategic decision about power-ups and collected colors determines success.

Gray drops increase the satellite's energy; however, orange and purple drops turn the satellite 'mutant', and you'll lose control.

CONTROLS

Joystick: control the movement of the magical ball and the selection of power-ups.

Satellite control:: for single-player, hold down the fire button. Team players use the second joystick.

Spacebar: activate pause. Press the fire button to resume the game.

Break key: end the current game and return to the home screen.

GAME MENU

You can choose between one or two magical balls, as well as individual and team modes. In individual mode, the satellite is controlled by holding down the fire button; in team mode, the second player takes control of the satellite.

If two magical balls are chosen, both players switch roles with each new life, and scores are separately counted for each player.


Select (F3 in Altirra): number of players (solo and team).

Option (F4 in Altirra): difficulty (slow and fast).

Pressing the spacebar on the home screen displays a summary with game instructions.

GAME SCREEN


1. Available lives.
2. Score.
3. Satellite energy 'C'.
4. Number of enemies 'W'.
5. Current game level number.
6. Available power-ups: antigravity, ray, double shot, satellite, laser, wizard spray, cat spray, bomb, shield.
7. Currently selectable power-up (blinking).
8. Collected amount of basic colors (in the three pots, red, green, blue).
9. Target color to mix (in the rightmost pot).
10. Bonus.
11. Crater.

POWER-UPS

Essential for successful gameplay is shooting some enemies first to collect bonus items (marked with the letter "B") to gain additional abilities. These are intermittently shown on the status bar at the bottom of the screen:

Antigravity: the magical ball floats.
Ray: shields up/down.
Bidirectional shot: left and right.
Satellite ("Catellite"): shooting satellite that collects color drops.
Laser: penetrates all obstacles.
Wizard spray (Wiz Spray): the magical ball shoots in all directions.
Cat spray: the satellite shoots in all directions.
Bomb: eliminates all enemies on the screen.
Yin/Yang: makes the magical ball and satellite indestructible.


Power-ups can be selected by a quick left-right movement on the joystick or a brief circular movement.

The leftmost extra on the bar allows the ball to float instead of bouncing. The most important power-up is the "Catellite" (satellite), which can be controlled by holding down the fire button and is essential for collecting color drops.

BONUS ROUND

After completing a color, a bonus round follows to collect extras and points. If you survive the entire bonus round without taking damage, you receive an extra life.


WIZARD'S HOUSE

With left/right movement and the fire button of the joystick, you can choose a permanent power-up. These are available immediately after losing a life.


EVALUATION

Graphics 85% 85% Sound 75% 75% Controls 80% 80% Playability 75% 75%

FINAL SCORE: 7.8

ZauberBall'23 is a reinterpretation of "Wizball" (Sensible Software, 1987), with new gameplay elements: renewed background graphics, additional parallax effects, many additional colors from the Atari 8-bits palette, countless moving objects, and enemy sprites. Also, filters and alternative clock rates of POKEY were used to make the sound effects sound more transparent.

"The origin of Zauberball goes back to '87/'88. Personally, I found Wizball exciting, and since an official port for Atari 8-bits was not planned, I thought there should be an alternative on this platform as well. ZauberBall is not identical to the original and is a bit easier to play. It's a kind of reinterpretation with new aspects of gameplay and graphics", said Oliver "C3PU" Cyranka (Germany), the author of this game.

Once you get used to it, the game is quite entertaining. Especially, the two-player team mode is highly recommended if you have a partner available. It's no wonder ZauberBall'23 took third place in the Atari Bit Byter User Club (ABBUC) 2023 software contest, with 516 points.


NOTES

  • If your joystick has the continuous fire function (e.g., Quickshot, Competition Pro, etc.), it's essential to deactivate it. Otherwise, neither shots can be accurately performed, nor the satellite can be controlled correctly.
  • Cyranka developed an updated version—the V1.1—of ZauberBall'23, with an "Easy" mode and support for Joy2B/SNACK-SNES, making it easier to select extras through the X/B buttons of the SNES joystick.