No, Clusterball is not the name of the sequel to the James Cann, 70’s sci-fi action movie, Rollerball. Instead, it’s a strangely named action game from the developer, Daydream Software. I guess you could stretch things and say it’s sort of similar to Rollerball in that the objective is to gather balls that are located in various locations on a playing field and then fly through a home base hoop to score points. Similar to Rollerball? What about the thrashing of opponents?! Since you’re in your own private flyer, you can’t throw an elbow or two at your opponent but there are certainly other ingenious ways to foil them.In Clusterball, everybody is equipped with weaponry that can put a damper on whomever you decide to target. The list is too long to list so let’s just say there are multiple ways of disrupting an opponent’s flyer. Whether it’s taking control of an opponent’s flyer or fully disrupting it, no one is safe from the merry pranks of the opposition. It’s bad enough that you have to endure spinning around helplessly when an opponent puts the whammy on you but you’ll also lose whatever chain of balls you had gathered up to that point. That’s when it gets to be a p**er. You can do the same to your opponents and that’s where game strategy comes into play. Do you just focus on gathering balls at the various spawning locations and try to evade your disruptive opponents or do you play the spoiler and scoop up balls that are dropped by your hapless victims? How about trying to utilize both tactics? The ideal one is to go after balls on the playing field and disrupt opponents while you’re at it. This is the most difficult tactic but obviously results in the best payout. The bigger question is how long will all this hold your interest?Clusterball is primarily set up for online multiplay, which makes sense since the gameplay itself is rather one-dimensional. Gather balls, evade opponents, score, disrupt opponents, scoop up loose balls, score, and so on and so forth. Going against live opponents and playing in teams definitely adds to the experience but you’ll eventually get tired of that so what’s left? Not much. The environments have different themes similar to what Las Vegas has morphed into. You get to experience playing fields such as Egypt, Stonehenge, Antarctica, Taj Mahal, Lunar, Easter Island, Yucatan, Bora Bora and China. But like Vegas, underneath it all it’s still the same game – only the façade has changed. My Vegas analogy also goes beyond the general shallowness of the gameplay and into the realm of advertising. There are enough ads here to fill up a baseball park or a soccer stadium (sorry European football fans – U.S. guy). Okay, so there’s no real-life equivalent to compare Clusterball to and yes, they’re trying to portray the surroundings as an “arena” but I don’t buy it. It’s inevitable that advertising will start to creep its ugly head in Video and PC games but why not do it in a more subtle way instead of slapping billboards everywhere? I can write a whole article on this so I better stop now. Bottom line is that the advertising does not fit into this game and ends up just being a distraction.It’s too bad since this graphics engine produces some great looking images and environments. The world themes are neat to look at and fun to fly around in. Better integration of the gameplay into these themes would have helped all the way around. Power-ups are placed within structures but other elements such as the placement of balls and the scoring hoops should have also been integrated into various structures. The Metropolactica venue does a pretty good job of this, with balls being located on bridges. I know it’s a glorified ramp but at least there was some creative thinking going on. The rest of the levels stick with the same old isolated ramps for ball spawns and the same style stadium hoop for scoring. Yawn!There is a lot of flexibility with the flight model as you are given the choice of five different flight characteristics to choose from. The flight models range from a stable and slow beginner mode (less maneuverability) all the way up to pro, which provides faster flying and better maneuverability. You can even customize your flight model by cherry-picking flight control settings. Learning to master your flyer is not all that difficult especially in the more basic flight model options. You can pilot your flyer in either FPS or third-person mode. Keeping track of your opponents is done through a radar screen HUD, which provides the necessary information for tracking your opponents and quickly identifying which ones to target (look for flyers that have a long trail of balls behind them). There’s no denying that Clusterball has covered all bases with its various flight models.If you want an arcade type of distraction to supplement your online play then Clusterball is a harmless diversion but if you’re looking for gameplay depth or longevity, then you’ll need to look for a different ball to play with.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.