Retro Space Ball is a mashup of a classic space shooter and pinball by Rik Oclon. It’s a pretty simple game where you control a spaceship which shoots a ball vertically upwards. In spite of it’s simplicity it has many creative ideas and it’s a lot tougher than it sounds!
The main game is level based. Although the goal for each level is the same – to get the ball high enough and land in the goal – each level introduces new obstacles and mechanics. There’s a few obstacles to hinder your progress in the first zones, such as bricks that the ball can’t pass through and bricks that you need to hit with the ball to destroy. Later levels include enemies and boss fights to keep things interesting.
This gameplay itself is actually deceptively tricky, the ball isn’t too easy to control as you can only hit it indirectly with your ship’s bullets and sometimes it can actually feel a little bit punishing when you don’t seem to be making any progress. To help you out there are plenty of power-up dispensers which drop helpful things to upgrade your bullets. For example, you can increase bullet size, spread and rate of fire. These can be combined to get very powerful bullets and sometimes you can end up ploughing through a level easily with your upgraded fire power!
Later levels introduce enemies to try and thwart you, you can destroy them by hitting them with your ball or shooting at them – they’ll then drop a power up so in a way they actually end up being helpful!
Every few stages you’ll also get a bonus round where you can move sideways. While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, the rest of the game you almost entirely move vertically upwards. You can collect some bonus point and beat the level in the same way – land the ball in the goal.
Once you get to zone 9, the level opens out a lot more which makes vertical movement a lot tougher. Zone 10 is sort of a boss stage where you have to destroy some turrets by flinging your ball at it. I initially stopped playing on Zone 11 because I wasn’t actually good enough to beat it (but I came back the next day and did beat it!). It was this stage I also found out you can actually fail the stage if you let the ball fall right down to the bottom. If this happens the ball explodes and then the stage resets, so not much lost!
I also had a brief play on the VS AI mode. In this mode each player has a goal they defend and they win by shooting the ball into the opponent’s goal. The player sits at the bottom of the screen and the opponent is at the top – this seems like the AI would have a huge advantage, but the gravity inverts when the ball is sufficiently close to the opponent, so it evens out. It’s a fun extra game mode if you enjoy the main game.
The whole game has an electronic vibe with cool looking retro graphics and some funky electronica background music to match! It’s a fun game and playable in browser so worth checking out!