Shortly before Wolfenstein 3D kick-started interest in the genre, Xanth Software F/X treated Game Boy owners to Faceball 2000: a first-person shooter that saw players working their way through maze-like corridors battling giant smiling faces (Smiloids). Less violent than other FPSs, Smiloids disappear when defeated rather than explode in an orgasmic shower of blood, and should they take your life, your happy assassin will cheerily wish you a nice day. Xanth had previously used the idea for MIDI Maze on the Atari ST (tagline: Kill a Happy Face) but would transferring the concept to the Game Boy prove to be an impressive technical achievement or an example of over-ambition?
Upon starting the first level, it appears to be the latter as pushing forward on the d-pad results in some slow and jerky movement. However this is just an opening level quirk and for the rest of the game is much smoother. Admittedly it’s not as fluid (or fast) as Wolfenstein or Doom but it’s perfectly playable. You can only see so far in front of you which mean there is plenty of pop-up. It’s not any trouble when it’s an object in the distance but occasionally walls and enemies may appear unexpectedly in front of you. It’s rare for this to put you in danger but it is distracting.
Controls are straightforward: d-pad to move and A button to fire. You only have the one weapon (and unlimited ammo), so you don’t have to worry about switching. There is no strafing in the game, so you’ll find yourself avoiding enemy fire by moving in a backwards arc – strange if you’re used to side stepping attacks but Battlezone players will feel right at home. Pods contain powerups such as armour and ones that increase your walking and shooting speed. You have a map that can be called up at any time that shows where you have already been: a seemingly pointless addition at first, but it becomes essential once the levels get more complex.
The main mode of play is Cyberscape where the aim is to find the flashing exit before the timer runs out, shooting Smiloids along the way. This mode starts off extremely easy: the first level is a short walk to the exit with only two non-violent Smiloids in your way. These initial Smiloids are called ShootMe’s (no, really) and cannot move or harm you. You will be faced with these for the first few levels and whilst you are soon introduced to ShootMe2’s (they explode if you walk into them) it’s not until level 8 that a Smiloid will fire back. Even then it’s a few more levels until you find one likely to hit you.
Initial level design is also straightforward as you simply follow the corridors around to the exit. Luckily as you progress you are introduced to the likes of keys, switches, invisible walls and teleports that make gameplay a lot more interesting.
The plain walls that make up each level make the game visually unvaried and later levels are easy to get lost in. This actually works well for a game where your aim is to escape a maze but it can get dull to look at. The range of Smiloid shapes adds a bit more variety, and as they get increasingly aggressive you will be too busy trying to survive to worry about any visual repetition.
There are only a few sound effects in the game and whilst quite basic they work well with doors being blown open, Smiloids blinking out of existence and bullets hitting walls all having a distinct sound. Aside from a celebratory “level cleared” tune there is just the one piece of music that plays throughout the game: an adventurous and excited sci-fi track. It doesn’t quite have the happy vibe of the visuals, but it is catchy and doesn’t annoy.
There’s no save feature in the game but you can choose from one of six difficulty settings to determine which level to start from. “Very Easy” puts you at level 1, whilst “Radical!” lets you start from level 51. Whilst it’s tempting to skip the early (dull) levels, players may opt to play through them in order to acquire powerups and extra lives to help them out later on in the game.
After a slow start Cyberscape is a lot of fun to play and gets very challenging with the tougher Smiloids (Bouncer’s, Vampire’s, Ninja’s: all still smiling faces) taking life after life from you and the timer getting dangerously close to zero as you try desperately to find that hidden switch. The timer does become something to keep on eye on because should it run out, not only do you lose a life but the defeated Smiloids respawn.
There are 75 levels in total but level 70 is the final one, with the other levels providing a secret shortcut to reach later portions of the game. These levels are extremely tricky but rather than provide an alternate ending upon clearing the 75th you are sent back a few levels to continue on your way to level 70.
Trying to clear Cyberscape will keep you occupied for a long time but the most fun to be had with the game comes from the second mode: Arena.
Arena is a death match mode where you compete against computer and/or human controlled opponents. There are 15 different arenas of varying shapes and sizes and the first player to get 10 tags wins. The stupidly easy Smiloids are not available to fight against in this mode, yet neither are the toughest. However there are six difficulty settings that adjust the type and number of your foes as well as a seventh “Custom” option where you can have up to eight computer controlled opponents: should you opt for the full eight, it will be a tough challenge.
Of course the best part of Arena is fighting against human opponents. The game was designed to use a special adaptor to support up to sixteen players, but it was never released so you’ll have to make do with four. Internet rumour has it that linking several four-player adaptors together will allow more than four people to play, however whilst reviewing Faceball 2000 an attempt at a five-player game using this method proved unsuccessful.
When playing against other human players you will want to visit the options menu as here you can change the name and appearance of your Smiloid and set up Team Play. Offering an alternative to the free-for-all, this lets each player choose which of the four possible teams they want to be on, allowing for a variety of matchups such as 2 versus 2, 1 versus 3, etc. -- or all the human players could opt to take on the computer controlled team. Lastly, if you’d like to try a different type of teamwork multiplayer is also available for Cyberscape.
Attempting a First Person Shooter on the original Game Boy hardware may sound like a crazy idea, but it works surprisingly well despite some annoying pop-up and the lack of detail in your surroundings. The Arena mode is incredibly replayable thanks to the variety of stages and the different types of match ups that Team Play allows for. Cyberscape mode may start off ridiculously easy but the game is hard to put down once the challenge increases. Overall Faceball 2000 is a basic but addictive FPS that should provide plenty of entertainment.
"explode in an orgasmic shower of blood"
Your sexual preferences concern me.
EDIT: Although now I've actually read the review, this actually looks pretty good graphically for a GB game. Must've taken some effort to get those graphics out of the system. What a bizarre little game. Nice review too.
If Nintendo ever gives a VC to the DSi, I hope this is part of it. This sounds crazy, but it also sounds awesome.
Wow. So is this the first ever FPS???
Probably one of the first console FPS games, but certainly not the first FPS. That title would probably be awarded to Maze War on the Imlac PDS-1 which was around in 1974.
Great review, shame the rumour about linking multiple 4 player adaptors wasn't true tho.
Wow, that looks impressive for a GB game.
Funny you guys should review this today. I've almost got my own raycaster working perfectly. Here's a pic for those interested:
That looks pretty good pixelman. What are you using to make it?
I also made a raycaster a couple months ago in a couple weeks. Lets see if I can get a picture of that here...
Wow, I didn't know there were any good FPSes before Wolfenstein 3D, especially on the Game Boy.
What was that old robot saying? Ah, yes:
does not compute
I mean, how'd they do it?
They did it by being awesome. Not too surprising though. There are FPS games for graphing calculators even! I've also seen YouTube videos of a homebrew FPS on the NES and another one for the Commodore 64.
@Arkia: Oooh nice. I'm using Python + PyGame for mine, though I 'spect I'll port it to Flash or C++ later on (for speed). Did you use the Permadi Tutorial to make yours? If so, how'd you do sprites?
@pixelman: I didn't use any tutorials, just worked it out myself. Using Python + PyGame for mine too! I'd like to port it to C++ but I haven't found a graphics library that I've been able to figure out yet.
Maybe I could send you the source code if you're curious.
For some reason the thought of giant smilely-faced enemies scares me .
EDIT: I was just looking at the images and was surprised to see one that said "Corbie won!" Why was I surprised you ask? There's no way Corbie could win against the other editors .
@Arkia: Source code would be awesome. Could you pastebin it?
didn't think that was possible on the GB
I didn't realise the old GameBoy could have raycasting graphics .
I knew the GBA can do raycasting because i got a copy of Doom 2 .
While i consider Raycasting 2d graphics despite it producing a pysudo 3d enviroments but raycasting still done on a 2d plane .
But this supprised me in terms of the old little gameboys ability to have a FPS .
This reminds me a bit of 3-Demon which is a little more basic and doesn't involve shooting. I use to play it in yellow/black monochrome. Probably one of the first games I was exposed to.
Sounds sort of fun. Although I no longer have my Gameboy. Wonder what happened to it...
Ive been thinking of getting this one for a while. I'm really interested in seeing how a 3D FPS would handle on the Game Boy.
I had this game back in 1991/1992, and reading this review really brought back some memories! I never got to try multiplayer, because I think this game was pretty obscure (at least, none of my friends had it). Deathmatch against bots was fun.
This was my Gameboy "killer app" -- when I saw this game I knew I had to have a Gameboy. The initially low difficulty didn't thrill me, but it was pretty fun and I can recall enjoying the music. Finding anyone else with the game, let alone a Gameboy at University proved impossible though.
Thanks for the blast from the past Dave, nice to know someone else liked this one back in the day!
Seriously, a GAME BOY FPS?!
When I think about it though, I'm sure I've seen this before somewhere, on MobyGames perhaps.
It sort of reminds me of the OpenGL 3D maze screensaver for old windows like Win98 lol.
We need a DSiWare remake or something. And I think I saw a copy of this game at the trading post. I'll have to pick it up.
I've never heard of this title, but I wish I had sooner.
Two THOUSAND. It's the future, man!
I recall seeing this in 1990-something Nintendo Power mags, but never played it.
Good review, Dave.
This sounds like an awesome Game Boy Pocket title.
"Tags: Arrrggh!" Please forgive me, got a laugh out of that. Didn't mean to sound mean.
I shall try this someday.
Nice job, pixels and Arkia.
Remember when this came out, brings back memories of the review in Mean Machines. Makes me want to swap my Game Boy bought from America in 1990 back, for the US Mystical Ninja cart I swapped it for in '93, now I have the latter on VC
An FPS on the Gameboy? Wow, gotta check that out some time.
Believe it or not, I actually bought this at a WallMart in 2004 brand new for $30. Weird that they still had this stuff in their inventory.
I I bought this game at the Trading Post in my town yesterday. It's good. Oh, and if you play it on a GBA or a GBC, I suppose, it gives you an extra color platlet. And you can also make it fit the GBA screen.
This game is so cool, I love it! It is a very fun game.
In my opinion, the Game Boy version is better than the SNES version.
Oh, and TheLonelyGamer says! HAVE A NICE DAY!
I remember owning the original game cuz my dad bought it at a garage sale lol.... now im sad cuz i don't know where it is. i may have sold it for all i know... i never did appreciate that game when i had it... but now i feel like i could appreciate it but i dunno where it is!!! aaagghhh!!
Anyone but me REALLY want this game on 3DS Virtual Console with online play so you can actually enjoy a 16 person game of this obscure title? I know I would! COME ON, NINTENDO! MAKE THIS HAPPEN! @nintendolife please pass this along next time you talk to Nintendo.
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