Ball Rush 2
 Publisher: HeroCraft 
 Format: J2ME 
 Version: Europe 
 Tested on: K750i 
The bat and ball game has been very much a constant since the dawn of video gaming. Indeed, the concept of knocking a ball up screen to destroy blocks owes much to the grand daddy of video games, Pong.

This classic – yet now alarmingly basic – game from yesteryear hit European shores in 1974. The idea subsequently evolved from a two-paddled, horizontal gaming area to the vertically orientated single bat and ball and blocks offering, which has since become more familiar.

True, bat and ball games might now be considered old hat to the wrinklier gamers among us, but for a blossoming platform such as mobile, the genre is ideal fodder.

Herocraft would seem to agree given that the firm has rolled out Ball Rush 2 to appeal to the type of gamer who loves to knock their balls off a wall with a bat.

If that's you, before you get too keen it's important to know there's a flaw that drastically reduces the enjoyment of this game. But more on that later.

Despite having the basic mechanics of bat and ball, Ball Rush 2 offers up something different by, first, setting it in a water environment and, second, asking the player to destroy the blocks that will enable the ball to pass through the top – thereby enabling you to move upwards and on to the next level.

This mechanic means you don't have to destroy everything on screen as is the norm with this type of game. Rather, you only have to create a route through the wall to progress. You do get the chance to destroy everything on screen, though only after you've worked your way up a number of screens and reached the end-of-level boss.

Control of the floating platform, powered by thrusters, from side to side on the bottom of the screen is done via the phone's thumbstick or by using the '4', '5' and '6' key layout.

To add a little complexity, there are a variety of different sorts of blocks that impede your way to the next stage. For instance, depending on their colour, some require two, three or four hits to destroy, although you can counter this by obtaining the ice ball power-up, which makes blocks require two hits at the very most, regardless of their colour.

Also, expect further variety from blocks that can only be destroyed by detonating a bomb (another of the many power-ups) near them, airbag blocks that activate other blocks around them therefore making your job harder, and teleports that if entered transport your balls to another point on-screen.

To help you, there are the aforementioned (and obligatory) bonus power-ups, such as safety nets, fire ball, speed ball, slow ball, and the ability to expand your platform (and, to keep you on your toes, there's a power-down that reduces it), not to mention the option to triple the amount balls that are in play – particularly manic when you've already got three of the blighters on the go, say. More innovative is the remote control power-up that enables you to take direct control over the trajectory of the ball; it works well and holding it is a considerable advantage.

The game possesses some good-looking visuals too, which, for anyone who remembers, are reminiscent of the classic 16-bit shooter Xenon 2. Meanwhile, the audio consists of some realistic metallic sounds as the ball(s) crash against the block, backed up by competent – if generic – music.

Ball Rush 2
's crucial failing however, is the speed of the platform relative to the flight of the ball. Traditionally, bat and ball games feature a bat that is reasonably sprightly and smooth, allowing it to make up considerable ground to get from one side of the screen to the other in order to meet the ball.

Here, though, delay your movement for even a fraction and you'll struggle to get to a ball, even if you're still relatively close.

It's frustrating and significantly devalues an otherwise competent package. For this reason alone, Ball Rush 2 won't really get your pulse racing.
Chris Maddox  1/2/2006
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Audio/visual  6
Gameplay  5
Value  5
Innovation  5
Overall  5
© Pocket Power Media Ltd.