Saturday, June 26, 2021

Game 80: Faceball 2000

Name:Faceball 2000
Publisher:Bullet-Proof Software
Developer:Xanth Software
Time:1 hour

The Game Boy, a system you wouldn't think would be capable of producing decent first-person action titles. You'd be right, actually. In fact, Faceball 2000 is not a good game by any measure, except nostalgia. It is a very strange title, however. Released in 1991, and even then the game credits itself as a port of 1987's MidiMaze for Atari ST. This game predates even Hovertank 3D. It shows in every possible way, but its bizarre just how modern it seems at times despite being a pile of dated crap. And it came out for quite a few systems, with enough changes to be different, technically, but not enough for me to want to handle those individually.
Let's start with the Game Boy version. Here, its a fairly normal FPS. Starts out with a ten level tutorial, following a 60 level campaign. This tells you all the fun things you can do, like shooting doors. The player has a generic gun, nothing special, one shot at a time, infinite ammo. Enemies so far take one hit. So then you start beating levels. Enemies start moving and eventually shooting. You'll get hit sooner or later. You're not a one-hit wonder, thankfully, but there aren't many medikits for a while. No, the primary method of regaining health is...regeneration. So, the first console game to have regenerating health is from 1991. This whole thing blows my mind. An inferior port of a PC game with regenerating health, 10 years before Halo. Everything is a lie.
But as you play on it becomes apparent why this game never caught on. As much as gaming has declined in the past couple of decades, there is at least something in the endless mass market FPS games that this predates. This is once again another game that's really the bare minimum needed. We've got it all. Music, levels, shooting, its all there, its just not very good. Really, the only thing impressive about this is the year and that its a fully functional FPS, on several systems that didn't get any others.
Because of the way the game is set up, I can quite easily go to the last group of levels and theoretically beat the game without having touched the first half. The game does try to throw some more interesting enemies, but because of central issues with the game, this isn't really fun? You have lives, and start off with 3, but it takes a few seconds for the game to respawn you and at that point I might as well start using save states, and if I'm using save states to save time, why am I even playing this at all?
The console versions are ironically, worse than the Game Boy version. The SNES gets a Quake 3-style campaign, embarrassing, while the TurboGrafx CD version doesn't even get that, just some kind of race mode and an arena mode. Oh, sure, they look better, don't have droning music and have better multiplayer, but this is something deeply amusing to me. Its all surprisingly bizarre.

A generic gun. 1/10

Various types of enemies in their most basic form. You go from targets, to randomly moving and shooting, to standing still, while tracking you down, going down a set path, and eventually waiting and then hunting you down. 2/10


Even the biggest of levels are deceptively small in terms of action space. Maybe a quarter of Wolfenstein's level size? Thing is, this isn't very interesting. Sure, you have switches and doors, but its all so cold and clinically made. You can't really tell one level from the next really. 1/10

Player Agency:
The buttons don't do what I want them to do. I think making a decent shooter for the Game Boy was a bridge too far. You can't strafe, so you have to awkwardly try to run away from enemies, further, the shooting is REALLY awkward. It takes a second after my bullet disappears for another to fire. 1/10


None of the three versions struck me as atmospheric in any way, though I am curious as to why there's a skybox in the SNES version.

Simple walls, one color. Everything looks the same, view distance is poor. 1/10

I don't want to know.

There is only one music track for each section of the game, level start, level, level end. This drove me up a damn wall. The sound effects are fine for Game Boy. 1/10

That's 7. Hey, its Game Boy.

Reviews are mixed, from people who are like, huzzah, a Game Boy FPS, its amazing. To people who have a more measured approach and say its merely interesting for what it is.

Xanth Software will return sometime back in 1987, for MidiMaze, the original version of this, and 1984's GATO, which will appear never-ever. Bullet-Proof Software, interestingly enough, will also return sometime back in 1985, with Dimensional Fighter Epsilon 3, and maybe something else, I haven't checked thoroughly yet.

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