This forgotten futuristic sports game by Namco undoubtedly takes some inspiration from Speedball 2, which was really popular at the time. The basic premise is that Powerball is a futuristic sport that takes the brutal elements of rugby or American football and mixes them with soccer. You can play as eight different nations, such as Japan or the UK, and fight it out to become the best Powerball team in the world.
As in similar games of the time, the action takes place from an overhead perspective. You also have a small radar screen to show all of the players’ current positions on the field. This is useful to help you judge if an off-screen pass is going to reach a team member, or an opponent.
Graphically, things aren’t too bad. Colour is used quite nicely and the Smash TV styled futuristic locations have a good feeling of atmosphere. The music is pretty catchy and the players make grunting sounds when knocking each other face down on the ground.
You can score in two ways: by scoring a goal in the red zone, which a goalie defends for one point, or by scoring a touchdown, which is worth two points. The gameplay is as expected quite violent, as you can tackle, kick, clothesline and even trample upon your opponents in order to get the ball. The only rule seems to be that you can’t attack whilst in possession of the ball.
The gameplay is fun and addictive, but it’s not a pushover either; you have to think about your next moves, passes and throws because it is easy to lose the ball. Attacking your opponents and stealing the ball is good fun! Of course, as in all these games of this type, it is more fun to play against a friend as the CPU can get a bit predictable after a while, while friends at least put up a challenge.
Powerball’s controls are very intuitive. In addition to the usual passes and tackles you can hold down the button until the pointer icon next to your player blinks white, which you will allow you to strengthen your actions.
On the whole Powerball is decent and well-rounded game, but beyond the competitive element in the 2 player mode there isn’t really too much longevity in the exhibition or league modes. It’s a shame a few bonus games weren’t included to mix things up a bit. Powerball isn’t as slick as Speedball 2 or perhaps as tactical as the John Madden series on the Megadrive but it is worth a look still just about.