|Min OS X: 10.2 CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz RAM: 128 MB Hard Disk: 35 MB|
When dealing with Breakout clones you invariably end up with one of two things. Either you'll end up with a poorly executed clone that adds little but level design or you'll get lucky and find a gem that actually adds something new to the genre. I got lucky with Fizzball. From its toxic waste canisters to its constantly growing ball, this game keeps you playing way longer than any other game of its type.
Gameplay: Gotta Catch 'em All!No matter what Breakout clone you play, you're always fulfilling one basic requirement: break everything in sight. Generally, the games get boring due to a lack of variety. Fizzball definitely isn't one of those. It takes the basic Breakout gameplay and adds lots of new material. What you'll notice first is that you don't have to break everything to beat a level. You only have to catch all the animals scattered throughout the area. Your ball doesn't start with the ability to catch them, however. You need to grab smaller items like apples and ferns to make your ball bigger, and when it's the right size, send it flying at the animals and "rescue" them. There are many quirks to this assignment, like dodging skunks until you're sure you can get them with your current ball size. This is mainly because you don't want the animals to get a whiff of skunk spray, as that hurts your overall score.
Fizzball also offers a few surprises as you continue throughout the game. You start with the world map and your first assignment, which is basically just a tutorial. As you progress, you'll begin to land on bonus levels that have you doing things like keeping your ball in play as it moves faster and faster and catching as many animals as you can. If you get perfect, you may win a badge for the trophy room. The trophy room is one of the many things that keep you playing, as it is very satisfying to see it slowly fill as you find all the hidden badges. Another interesting feature in the game is the alien battles. Apparently, the animals are all unattended and needing your aid because aliens are abducting everyone in the area. Occasionally, you'll run across one of these critters and will have to destroy their ship and capture them with your ball. If you're good enough at it, you might just win another badge. You'll also find multiple bonus paths on occasion. They generally lead to catching something like a unicorn or gaining cash for the ferry towards the next island.
For those of you with children, there's also a "kid" mode. Basically, the gameplay is tamed quite a bit and you can never lose all your fizzballs. This is great for children, as they seem to enjoy watching the ball grow and destroy everything it hits. They also seem to find it hilarious when the ball sucks up something large like a cow, as it looks very funny crammed in amongst twenty or so other animals.
However, there is one problem with the gameplay, and that's the problem almost inherent with games of this type. The levels tend to be quite similar. Fizzball has done many things to make levels as varied as possible, but the end result is still just breaking everything and capturing all the animals. It's not a major flaw, but it keeps a player from enjoying the game fully.
Graphics: Can't See the Forest for the TreesThe graphics of Fizzball are absolutely amazing for a game that runs as fast as it. Everything is drawn slightly cartoony, but it all is quite detailed and I can't truly remember a single effect that looks bad to the casual eye. The landscapes are pretty, the world map is easy on the eyes, and all the members of the world make beautiful effects when destroyed.
The wildlife is very animated in Fizzball. A cow will look banefully at your screen as it gets hit for the thirteenth time, a bird will fly about after you destroy its perch, a monkey will fall from a tree after you shake it, and butterflies will even flit from place to place as you destroy every single piece of fence in your way. The game truly feels like the outdoors.
The inanimate objects are equally animated. A fence will crack and slowly break as your ball repeatedly whacks into it, a toxic barrel will crumple inwards and eventually begin belching gas into the air, and piled crates will fall as the bottom crates are destroyed. Overall, everything has an animation and the animation is quite good.