Ultra Flexball 2000
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  • Freeware
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  • Action - General, Other
  • 2002
  • 1
  • high score save
  • 2
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7  |  Ultra Weirdball
Darryl B. , 2/5/2006 1:47:43 AM
One of the earliest coin-operated games ever (or probably within the first few hundred coin-ops made, at least) was Breakout by Atari. It doesn't sound too exciting nowadays, what with using a paddle to knock a ball into a wall of bricks and clearing it, but back then it was pretty engaging. Then Super Breakout added several games onto that, plus there were who knows how many dozen Breakout-type rip-offs made for all kinds of video game and computer consoles after that.

Then about a decade later came Arkanoid, with much better graphics (of course) and much-needed power-ups, like a laser to shoot the bricks with, being able to catch the ball, widen your paddle, and more. That game really took Breakout for a much-needed upgrade (and probably pissed off Atari for not thinking it up themselves), and was a big hit, making it onto all kinds of ports all over the place for years to come.

And then came Ultra Flexball 2000, turning ARKANOID on it's ear -- even though most of it's gameplay is still intact -- but by doing some weird stuff to make it stand out. And by "weird", I don't mean so weird that the game isn't any fun, unlike the NES game of A Boy And His Blob, which most people, in general, will agree that it's pretty original, but not very fun.

Here you must use your paddle to knock one or more balls (I'll get to the ball multipliers later) into a screen full of blocks in order to clear the screens. You have a choice of several games to play, most of which have 9-11 rounds, the largest of the lot having 30. The graphics are decent, as are the sound effects (although some very strange) and music (which is public domain), and the control's as good as your mouse will allow it.

And like I said with how Arkanoid plays, here you get various power-ups to enlarge your paddle, be able to catch the ball, shoot lasers from your paddle, etc. There's also some new stuff, like invisible bricks on various screens, which the first pass of a ball will make them visible, and the next hit will destroy them. There's also bricks that take several hits to destroy, some bricks will blow up (whee!), other bricks will shoot your ball in a crazy direction (marked by an arrow), and more.

Then things start getting weird.

Unlike with Arkanoid, you can obtain multiple increases of the same power-up. For example, lasers fire slowly, but if you get, and then CATCH another laser power-up, you'll be able to shoot multiple shots, plus catching even more of this same power-up results in the shots bouncing around and all. A power-up to make the ball big, if caught again, results in the ball turning into a huge clown head (?). And if you catch the wider paddle power-up multiple times, you can make the paddle almost as wide as the entire screen. Seriously! (This is rare that you’ll get enough of those power-ups to accomplish this, though.)

Then the sound effects for these power-ups are also strange. One is for a couple of spaceships that appear at the top of the screen, which they bounce their way down, destroying blocks in the process. When you catch this power-up, though, once it's activated, that's marked by something being mumbled in French (I think), but done with a reverb effect as well. Accidentally catching (in my case, since I don't like it) the yellow, cross-shaped power-up results in the bricks coming down the screen each time a ball hits your paddle...which sounds like a duck quacking with each hit. And whenever you have multiple balls onscreen, each time one gets by your paddle, a voice yells something that sounds like “WOT!"

Most levels are named as well (although it depends on which variation you choose), and some of those are strange too...the names and the levels, I mean: one screen name is in regards to Kermit undressing. Kermit the Frog? I don't see it, though...another level is the Titanic made up of bricks, with working smokestacks, which I thought was cool. Another level name is in regards to an ancient maggot (??). And on and on.

STILL doesn't sound weird? Well, obviously you haven't played it then; really, when you've got a level quacking it's way down towards you, with giant clown heads for balls, a good dozen multi-balls flying around the screen, and someone yelling "WOT! WOT! WOT!" whenever you miss one of those balls, trust me, you've got quite a strange game going on. "Strange days indeed", said the late John Lennon.

There’s a few problems with the game, though, one of which is a weird glitch that pops up out of nowhere, causing the screen to go blank until the ball passes through parts of the screen. (This might be a problem with running the game on Windows XP, though.) Some screens are hard to tell what’s going on, like a photo of a ton of gray pebbles makes up a background, which, along with a little gray ball, means you’re going to lose it a lot. Losing the ball, along with your power-ups, also sucks when you’ve only got a few bricks left, which can take a while to get through the screen, and there’s no way to pause the game during play. There are also red power-ups (avoid like the plague) that will shrink either your ball or your paddle back down, but that just makes the game challenging though, and not really count as a hindrance.

The game has a bit of replay value though, due to the several dozen levels, along with a built-in level editor to create whatever weird screens you’d like as well. It’s also a good “all ages” game, due to this reviewer nearing 40, yet the nephew of only 9 liking it too, who really howls with laughter when the dozens of multi-balls are going crazy, along with all the yelling in French (or whatever) going on as well. After all, it's simple to learn and play, and it shouldn't take you long to figure out which power-up symbol is which as it comes your way down the screen.

And this coming from a kid who didn’t know not only what Arkanoid was, but it’s original influence as well: “what’s Breakout?”

(slaps forehead) “WOT!” indeed. 7/10

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