The Story: KPI-Ball is
an adaptation of the famous Capcom game Pang! It is also known as
Pomping World on MSX. The game objective is to destroy during 50
play-phases all the balls, the action taking place in 17 different
The Review: I could not
wait... reviewing Blue Warrior (my first review) was fun but oh, KPI
Ball was even more fun! I thought I would give a try to another
recently released game, but the great thing if you are reading this is
that the game is now available for download in its full version
(matraware) through Matranet, and you can even use it in your favourite
emulator (read important information about matraware at the bottom of
this page). In fact the game was developped by Armando Perez Abad aka Ramones with the help of Manuel Pazos
in some coding parts, Airam Rodriguez (backgrounds
only) and Miguel Angel Fernandez aka Sutchan
(sprites, animation, scores...) for the graphics, Jose Angel
Morente aka JAM and Manuel Dopico aka Dop
for the musics - and if you wish to acquire the original game with box
and instructions you can buy it for a mere 10.81 Euros excluding
shipping from Club Hnostar.
But anyhow for the
purpose of this test, I've plugged again my Al-Alamiah AX-370 MSX2 to
enjoy the full extent of the game on my TV screen and also tested it
under fMSX for Mac OS X for the sake of making screenshots.
The Intro screen
So I downloaded the game
from Matranet, put the files on MSX formatted floppy and off I was to
have some fun. The loading was slow, and I could have skipped the
Matranet propaganda screen stating the game is FREE... but do we have
something to say when a distributor and MSX aficionados make recent
games available to everybody in their full version? I guess not.
Anyhow, after the wait I ended up on the presentation screen (see
screenshot above) where you can already admire the smoothness of the
game's animation running very fluently: red balls of all sizes bouncing
against the 'walls' without any glitch accompanied by some inspired
music. As a pure gamer, I should have hit the space bar first to play a
round and get a first impression - however I thought 'let's see the
options' first just to see. In fact with the exception of being able to
set-up the game in Easy, Normal or Hard mode the other options do not
influence play. You are able to adjust the number of credits and the
number of lifes for each credit (like a real arcade game!), turn on and
off the music, adjust the background FX volume (which I recommend to
put on 15) and reset the high-scores (good luck to get your name in the
hall-of-fame top position). One option that is really nice is the
possibility to listen to all levels musics (about 17 different tunes)
without playing. Not all MSX games offer you this much options, so
already a good impression. And so I was back to the main menu to play
KPI-Ball at last.
Once you hit 'Game', you
just have a little wait before you are presented with a world map where
you can choose the level you want to start with. Level 1 takes place in
Japan at Mount Fuji but you can straight away start in other places
like Mount Keirin, Emerald-Temple, Ankor-Watt, Australia, Tajmajal,
Leningrad, Paris, London or Barcelona. Only Athens, Egypt, Kenya, New
York, Maya, Antartica and Easter-Island are accessible while you
progress in the game. Each Level is composed of 3 different stages that
are increasingly difficult and only when you managed to survive the
three stages you go on to the next level.
You mission in KPI-Ball
is very simple: destroy all red balls on the field. The balls are of
various sizes and bounce more or less in height in function of size.
The largest ball has a strong bounce power whereas the small ones
bounce much less, making it one of the difficulties of the game as you
die when you touch one! The small balls are destroyed when you hit them
with one of your weapons - however the larger ones split into two or
more smaller balls that can quickly crowd the playing field with
numerous objects to avoid. To makes things even more difficult each
level is different with various obstacles like walls, ladders and
None less, the developers
did include plenty of options to help you accomplish your mission (ouf!
otherwise it would be mission impossible) that you need to catch to
activate. Those options are very helpful but be also aware some will
also play against you. To give you an idea:
* Birds will deflect
the direction of a ball and your weapons are frozen when you hit one.
* Crabs help you as
their sharp claws make the balls explode.
* Owls fly with no
sense at all but avoid touching them.
* Fruits give you bonus
* Tritorn shells have
same effect as Owls but they don't fly!
* Reach the hourglass
to slow down the ball's pace.
* Touch the bomb and
see what happens!
* Get a shield (the
white flashing option on above screenshot) to protect yourself.
* Get the clocks to
pause the balls from moving for a while.
There are four types of
weapons you can use, the simple wire, the double wire, the power wire
(wire that sticks to walls) and the vulcan missile (shotgun). All these
weapons, bonus items and enemies are taking some time to get used to
and I advise you to play a few games to identify them so to test them
out and adapt your future play and tactics.
The game all in all is
relatively difficult but there was no level where I thought - oh, this
is going to be mission impossible! With the credits systems and the
opportunity to start the game wherever you want you get enough time to
train and learn the skills to pass a level. There is nothing more
annoying to restart a game from scracth when you loose (like most
Konami games), and I must say KPI-Ball is well thought on this aspect.
As far as the graphics
are concerned, they are trully very nice. Each of the 17 levels come
with a different background representing the country or city action is
taking place - and although the colours are bright they do not
interfere with objects in movement which you can still very easily
identify. The various elements on the screen are very detailed (almost
to perfection for a MSX game) and as I said before I am amazed by how
smooth the game runs considering the number of objects that are in
constant move during play. Music is excellent but I really advise you
have a FM-Pac, Moonsound or Music Module to benefit from it. If you are
using an emulator to play the game, fMSX does a pretty poor job. I
believe you will be better off with NlMSX but you can't get even close
to the real thing! A top game that every MSX gamer should have, would
have been a top-seller if it was released in 1986-88. Although the game
is for free download in its full version, I encourage everybody to
support the developpers by spending a little 10 Euros, for which you
will get the game with its box and instructions - a small amount
considering the value of this game.
Matraware, full version
for free (and for just 10 Euros, you can get box &
Simple rules and great
Numerous levels, you can
start wherever you want.
Great graphics and sound
Life span never ends -
each game is different
A top class MSX game.
Disk game, slow to load
(but worth the wait)
On MSX2 and some MSX2+
no music unless you have a FM-Pac, Moonsound or Music Module.
Default High-Scores are
Specifications: MSX2, 720Kbb
floppy disk, 64Kb minimum
FM-Pac, Moonsound or
Music Module required to listen music.
for the Matranet free version: This game is
MATRAWARE. No portion of the contents in the KPIMATRA.LZH file may be
reproduced, transmited, distributed in any form, CD compilations
included, if they don't have the author permission. At same time this
program can't be hosted in no place except www.matranet.net.
In few words, Matra (or
it's site Matranet) are NOT authors or co-authors of KPI's Ball. Matra
(or it's site Matranet) are distributors for the matraware free version
ONLY. For your information, matraware versions are complety playable.
The only one differences are some screens for menu and ending,
matraware are NOT demos or promos. The rest of game is the same as the