Title  : Ballistic
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation, Game Boy Color
Publisher  : Infogrames
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 7.2
 
Title  : Test Drive 6
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation
Publisher  : Infogrames
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 6.1
Reviews by  : Ken Gagne

With the holiday season upon us, video game publishers are preparing their lineup for the time of year when they make the most sales. Some companies, like Nintendo, aim for a few quality titles, while others, such as Infogrames, scatter quality among several games. Two such titles are Test Drive 6, for the Sony PlayStation, and Ballistic, for the PlayStation and Game Boy Color (PSX version reviewed here). 

Ballistic is a puzzle game with obvious ties to Taito's Bust-a-Move series. Players find themselves manning a turret in the center of the screen, with a line of variously-colored balls spiralling toward the turrent from off-screen. The turret can fire random balls at the string; when three or more balls of identical color connect, they disappear, and the line shortens. The game ends when all the balls are gone, or they reach the turret. Though Ballistic's spiralling chain of connected balls is original, the basic concept is not. 

Since all the balls are connected and tossing new balls pushes the chain closer to its goal, the challenge is significantly more difficult than Bust-a-Move's. Players will often find themselves stymied in the Puzzle Mode, in which the balls are finite and the paths can take myriad turns and twists. 

The lack of originality is accompanied by a deficiency of options. There are two play modes and a two-player versus mode. More puzzles, more players — heck, even an autoload feature to restore saved data automatically at boot time — any of these aspects would've been appreciated. 

Ballistic is a fun little game, but not for long. It lacks the innovation necessary to stand the test of time — similar to its Infogrames sibling, Test Drive 6. This title is the latest entry in a long line of driving simulations. Test Drive 6 is a good game, but when held up to other racing games, it falls short in most categories. 

Showroom: TD6 sports over 40 real-world vehicles from Ford, Aston Martin, and others. Cars can be painted and upgraded to the driver's tastes. 

A game with more cars and more options: Gran Turismo. 

Gameplay modes: single race, tournament, Cop Chase (give speeders tickets), and Pink Slip (race your modified car with a friend's; winner keeps both cars). Good variety; gamers will find a lot to play with here. 

Same modes done better: Need for Speed IV. (Especially bad move on TD6's part: splitting the two-player screen vertically, not horizontally, obscuring the player's view.) 

Soundtrack: eight bands, including Fear Factory, Eve 6, and Cirrus. The awesome full-motion video opening is straight out of the Eighties, with similar tunes accompanying the races. 

Better soundtrack: Gran Turismo. TD6 has more tunes overall, but Gran Turismo's are catchier and more lyrical. 

Control: iffy at best. The analog stick, often the preferred steering method, is too sensitive in TD6. The sense of speed is inconsistent; it's common to zip under a car that's slowly twirling in the air after a collision. When it picks up, steering becomes reckless. 

Smoother control, easier configuration: Gran Turismo. 

Test Drive 6 has all the features of a good racer, and would be a best-seller if it hadn't already been outperformed in almost all categories. A year or two ago it would've been an essential part of any gamer's library; today, it's worth just a test drive.


This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 22-Nov-99