In the mid-eighties, ball based arcade games (such as Marble Madness and Trailblazer) were all the rage on 8-Bit machines - and Bounder was another good ball based game.
Gremlin Graphics released bounder for the ZX Spectrum in the summer of 1986 - and it was well liked by those classy Spectrum gamers.
Bounder could probably be regarded as a platform game with a difference: the game was viewed from a top down angle, or birds-eye view. The whole idea of the game was to guide the ball (which was a tennis ball) through varying screens of obstacles whilst it bounced along.
Our bounder had to negotiate a pathway of hexagonal paving stones that continuously scrolled down the screen.
This game contained a whopping 174 screens which were split into ten levels meaning you really had a tough task in completing the game. The general rule was to avoid anything that moved and to bounce only on the hexagonal parts of the screen. Sounds easy you say?
Well, Bounder was pretty tricky due to the nasties put between you and the end of the levels. Obstacles to avoid included piles of jagged rocks, stone walls (which had to be bounced around), and shards of broken glass which punctured your tennis ball if you bounced onto them.
Apart from the rocks, glass and walls, a range of nasties roamed the playing area intent on bursting your little tennis ball. The excellently named Binoculoids zoomed around trying to knock your ball off course, Moscita birds swooped down on top of you and Stickits, Exocet missiles and Chomper Domes (truly superb named baddies!) tried to stop you in their own way.
A stock of seven tennis balls Was given to the player at the start of the game and a life was lost every time you strayed off the yellow pathway or collided with any of the nasties. There was some help in Bounder though - as was usual with classic arcade games some powerups were available.
Landing on a square with an arrow in it supercharged the next bounce allowing you to hang in the air for twice as long as a normal bound. Teleport areas warped the ball to the next teleport square which could allow you to avoid any nasties lurking in between. Some squares were marked with a question mark and these squares concealed a surprise. Landing on one revealed a random powerup, which could be something nice like an extra life, or something not so nice!
Once you reached the end of a level your tennis ball was shot through a goalmouth and you were taken to the bonus screen. The screen was full of 'mystery squares' and each one held a random number of bonus points. A bounceometer in the status area of the screen told you how many bounces were available to you to use on the bonus screen - so using your bounces wisely was the way to gather maximum points. You could claim yet a further bonus (it's starting to sound like a game show!) by landing on all of the bonus squares on the screen.
The game was always moving (as in the ball always bounced on it's own), increasing and decreasing in size as it bounced in relation to the ground. You HAD to control the ball as it always bounced forwards - the real trick to the game was keeping it 'alive'. Once you got the hang of it, addictive was the word.
When Bounder was released for the ZX Spectrum it was praised for it's original concept and gameplay. It was a definate nice twist on the platform genre, and the simple concept combined with the smooth scrolling levels and imaginative enemies marked it as a game with a difference. Bounder was a big hit and plenty of gamers picked it up. Tennis balls were only more popular when Wimbledon was on!
The test of time:
Your humble reviewer here in the land of Spectrum Games reckons that Bounder is a bit of a cult classic. Make no mistake, Bounder is no pushover (although my reflexes are probably not as sharp as they used to be!), but it's a fun little game. It needs a few goes at it to get the hang of the gameplay, but once you do, there is a good game in there. Gremlin rarely released a dud, and Bounder was another quality title from a quality software house.
Please give Bounder a go and perservere with it, it's a good little retro game.
We recommend getting hold of the real hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator and download Bounder for the ZX Spectrum. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
GENRE: Top down platform game (arcade game)
RELEASE DATE: Summer of 1986
RELEASED BY: Gremlin Graphics
DEVELOPER(S): Sean Hollingworth, Marcos Druroe, Peter Harrap and Chris Kerry
PRICE: £7.95 - UK
Mart makes a balls up in Bounder - a classic arcade game:
Arcade Games, Classic Games and ZX Spectrum Games