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Dossiers > Articles and Reviews in English > Games > [ENG] KPI Ball (Boh-Ken, 2000)

[ENG] KPI Ball (Boh-Ken, 2000)

The MSX Games bOX Reviewed in December 2002

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 countries.

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.


Left: Options screen; Right: Level selection screen

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 enemies.


Left: Ankor-Watt, Right: Tajmajal

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 points
* 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.

Pros:

  • Matraware, full version for free (and for just 10 Euros, you can get box & Instructions).
  • Simple rules and great gameplay
  • 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.


Cons:

  • 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 set high.


Game Specifications:
MSX2, 720Kbb floppy disk, 64Kb minimum
FM-Pac, Moonsound or Music Module required to listen music.


Where to get if from:
Matranet, Free for download!
Club Hnostar, 10.81 Euros (box & instructions). To order directly e-mail.


Important note 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 buyable version.


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