Retrobyte: I-Ball 2 and Bug Bomber


Last few weeks have been pretty hectic, preparing for a job interview and working through small lists of projects (including digitising some retro videos for the GTW YouTube channel.). In between i’ve been flicking through some old gaming magazines and noted these two gems which I haven’t played in a while:

I-Ball 2 (C64, Spectrum, Amstrad – 1988 Firebird)

Firebird were one of the early companies to have a budget label with their 1.99 silver range.  I-Ball was one of their flagship titles where you had to rescue your family through around 16 vertically push scrolled levels.  Very frantic and surreal based shooter which won many fans, especially the C64 version due to its brilliant music by Rob Hubbard.

The sequel was a quieter affair, and doesn’t really get as much attention as the first game – which is a shame as although it doesn’t quite feature the rush and excitement of the first game,  it plays very well.  You see, the sequel is more of a platform blaster type affair, where you have to navigate through 50 still screens of action, opening up pathways to get a key to exit to the next level.  Hoards of re-spawning enemies makes this task a little difficult.

Although not quite as loud as the first game, this is worth checking out – especially for the very cool speech throughout.

Bug Bomber (C64, Amiga – 1992 Kingsoft)

The next title I have particularly fond memories of on the C64.  My first experience of it was with a 10 level demo that was given away with Commodore Format magazine back in 1992.  I played it to death, by myself and also with the 4 player mode that came with it.

At the time Bomberman was pretty big, and the desire to play such a title on the C64 was huge.  Although a Dynablaster licence was due, it sadly never surfaced.  Luckily Kingsoft decided to produce their own clone of the series with a title which was set on a computer keyboard, and had the same general idea of trying to clear each level of all the creatures inside it.

The major difference with Bug Bomber, is that creatures are laid onto the grid as eggs, which if you don’t get to and blow up in time, will hatch into a variety of different creatures which can shoot at you or run around at different speeds.

Also with your character, as well as setting bombs – you can lay mines, bullets which will fire once an enemy crosses its horizontal/vertical path, and also your own eggs!  These eggs can hatch into energy to build up your supplies, creatures to turn enemy eggs into your own and creatures that you can send into battle.  All of these different features are accessed by holding down fire and pressing in a particular direction – no need to use keyboard to access particular features.

Overall there are 100 fun levels to play, and during the later part – things get very challenging.  Once you’ve passed all 100 levels, you then have chance to play a 2-4 player match (With two people on keyboard).  Finished off with a superb Chris Huelsbeck tune on the title (Which was his last on the C64), its a superb game from towards the end of the C64’s life that you may have missed.

Unfortunately as a result of its late-coming, its hard to find an original – but its out there in a downloadable format for emulation if you want to check it out.

Many thanks to Lemon64 for the shots!

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