(c)1993 by Ross McNaughton
Requirements: 1Mb ST/STE. Low Resolution. TOS 1.62 or lower. Mouse controlled.
TRACKBALL is a puzzle game which requires quick thinking and fast reactions.
Coloured balls roll along a track, and the aim is to guide a set number of
balls on each level to the appropriate targets by changing the settings of
junctions on the track. You are allowed to make a limited number of mistakes
(losing balls or guiding them to targets of the wrong colour). On the later
levels, up to five balls may be in play at once.
Press the space bar to begin the game. A box will appear asking for a
password, to start on the first level just press RETURN.
The game itself is mouse controlled. The mouse controls a pointer on the play
area, and junctions are changed by clicking on them with the left mouse
button. I've tested the response with a standard Atari mouse and with a 290dpi
replacement mouse. The Atari mouse offered more precise control but was a bit
slow for some of the later levels.
THE SCREEN DISPLAY
The left-hand side of the screen is the playing area. A status panel on the
right displays the following statistics:
LEVEL: The number of the current level.
TARGET: The number of balls you must get 'home' to complete the level.
CHANCES: The number of mistakes you can make before the game ends.
SCORE: Your score.
HISCORE: The score to beat.
1) Straights, corners and crossovers: These work as you would expect.
2) Targets: These are shown as rectangles of the appropriate colour. If a
ball of a different colour goes into the target, you will lose one of your
3) Ball Killers: These appear as circles of red spikes. Any ball passing
over a ball killer will be destroyed, losing one of your chances.
4) Junctions: These are the only components which you can control. They
appear as T-junctions, with one branch of the T connected to the stem to form
a corner. A ball coming in either of these directions will go around the
corner, a ball coming in from the other branch will keep going straight. The
branch to which the stem is connected is marked by a green light and the other
is marked by a red light.
If the above doesn't make sense, try it out! Go to the first level and play
with the junctions. Once you can get a ball into each of the targets, you know
all you need to about the controls.
On some levels, junctions are linked so that clicking on one will change the
settings of others.
5) Colour Changers: These appear as coloured pads in the middle of the
track. Any ball passing over the changer will change to the colour of the pad.
On later levels, these get an extra property, but I'll leave you to work that
out for yourself!
6) Score Bonuses: These are white cards with a number on; guide a ball over
one to pick up the card and score that number of points.
7) Bouncers: Straights with white 'springs' in the middle. Any ball hitting
a bouncer will bounce back in the opposite direction.
8) One-Way Straights: Straights with a white arrow. A ball moving in the
direction of the arrow will keep moving, a ball moving against the arrow will
reverse direction as if it had hit a bouncer.
9) Auto Junctions: These are normal junctions but without the lights.
Instead of being controlled by the player, they change automatically when a
ball passes over them.
10) Switcher: Looks like a crossover with a diamond in the middle. Balls
entering a switcher will leave in a random direction. These can be really
Some of the levels are pure puzzles where the main requirement is to work out
the correct route, others are more arcade-orientated, where the routes are
more obvious but the challenge is to set them up quickly enough.
Each level has a six-character password which is related to the name and theme
of the level. Completing a level earns a score bonus and an extra chance, so
even when you know the passwords, you may prefer to start from an easier level
to build up a good supply of chances.
If you complete the final level, a large bonus is awarded for each of your
Balls don't interact with each other; they can pass over each other and move
along together quite happily.
Many of the levels can be set up so that only one or two junctions need to be
changed depending on the colour of the next ball. Once you find the right
configuration, these levels become much easier.
You can often trap balls in loops. This is useful for keeping balls safe while
you set up the correct route, or on levels with several balls at once, for
taking some of them out of play altogether so you have less to concentrate on.
One dangerous side effect of loops is that it is quite easy to end up with two
balls of different colours on top of each other.
Ross McNaughton, September 1993.