Before the world-crushing DS, before the Game Boy began its decade-plus of supremecy, Nintendo’s handheld division began with the humble Game & Watch line, which started with the even more humble Ball in 1980. Over the past 30 years, odds are good that if you’ve had any interest in the company’s portables you’ve come across this one. Maybe you played it as you stood in line to see The Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time. Perhaps you sampled it in the 1998 Game Boy Color compilation Game & Watch Gallery 2 before heading out to see The Phantom Menace. You might even be considering this inexpensive DSiWare release. So should you dig in? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a piece of Nintendo history, to get a chance to experience the company’s first proper foray into portable gaming from the beginning, then Ball is the place to start. Similarly, if you have a nostalgic relationship with it then go ahead and plunk down those 200 Points for a taste of your past. These DSiWare releases are as close as you can reasonably get in look and feel to the original handhelds, emulating the LCD screen and sound to perfection, so if you missed out or want to revisit the era then go download it now.
If you’re looking for an addictive, exciting gameplay experience, regardless of history, then Ball is not the way to go. What may have made you the bee’s knees among the other kids waiting for Empire is now, 30 years later, rather dull. With two or three balls in the air depending on whether the game type is A or B respectively, you move the arms of Mr. Game & Watch (at his most phallic) from side to side to keep the juggle going, netting 1 or 10 points each ball depending on game type, until you eventually drop one. The problem is that until you’re hundreds of points deep the game poses next to no challenge for anyone accustomed to more taxing fare (that is to say, anything made in the past 30 years). “How long can you go?” becomes “how long will you care?” Sure, you can crank up the score/difficulty out of the gate, but then your high score is not recorded, killing a big draw of these games.
If you want a piece of gaming (or personal) history on the relative cheap side then toss this one in your download queue, but if you’re not a collector or nostalgic then snap up one of the more interesting Game & Watch DSiWare releases instead.