Pi-Balled, ZX Spectrum

Pi-Balled was published by Automata UK in 1984 and is basically a Q*Bert clone. And it’s not a bad one at that.

As the opening screen shows, you play as ‘Burt’ and go up against a variety of guest star meanies, all of whom you need to avoid if you want to avoid losing a life. Just like in Q*Bert the aim of the game is to change the colour of all the tiles on “The Pyramid of PI” to a certain target colour. Sometimes this just requires jumping on them once; other times they may need more than one visit to make them the right colour.

Touching an enemy, or jumping off the edge of the pyramid, will lose you a life and you start off with just three.

There are hovering discs on either side of the pyramid that can be jumped on to return Burt to the very top tile (very slowly I might add), and these are used to avoid chasing monsters. Once they’ve been used, though, they’re gone for good.

As the screens progress the game becomes harder, with more enemies on the board chasing you. Some enemies will also change the colour of the tiles back to the previous colour, meaning that you have to jump on them again to make them the target colour.

Pi-Balled does support the Currah Microspeech for added synthesised speech, and like many Currah “enhanced” games the speech is barely intelligible. And I say this as a kid who spent £30 on a Currah Microspeech when it first came out (a lot of money at the time), only to be greatly disappointed by it! With the Microspeech attached the game says “I am Burt” on the title screen; “hello” when a game begins; “complete” when you finish a screen, and “Oh no! Aaaah!” when you die.

Pi-Balled hasn’t aged particularly well, but it’s still quite playable today. It’s by no means the worst Q*Bert clone on the Spectrum (that is probably Hubert by Blaby, or Spellbound by Beyond), but isn’t the best either (that is arguably Pogo, by Ocean).

More: Pi-Balled on Wikipedia

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