Cameltry is an obsucre Japanese puzzle game. The basic idea is to maneouvre a ball around a 2D maze to the goal, within a time limit. The player does not interact with the game by controlling the ball though; instead, the player rotates the maze around the ball, with the gravity pulling the ball downwards*. The ball can be made to jump, but this is very difficult to use correctly and is only for very skilled players. The rotating maze is represented smoothly on the screen thanks to the genius of the SNES's Mode 7 rendering system which can rotate and stretch a flat surface in any way. Other good examples of Mode 7 in use are the Boss Islands in Super Mario World, the floor in Street Fighter 2 and the map screens in Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, Final Fantasy VI and Terranigma. Most of these uses were purely cosmetic, though, but this is integral to the game.
The game has a number of different levels - at first four "courses" are available - in order of increasin difficulty they are Training (which includes screens with tips on how to play, but unfortunately in Japanese), Beginner, Expert and Special. Eventually you can access the Master Course. Each round has anywhere from four up to about 10 levels, each increasing in difficulty, and once you have completed all the levles in a round you can pick a different one. You do not have to go through them in order, but it makes sense to. After you complete all four courses you are given a password - I will keep these below for anyone who wants them. This password, when entered, unlocks another set of four courses with completely different levels and much more difficult challenges. While the first "field" (the game's name for each set of four courses) is relatively easy and can be completed with few problems, the second field becomes nice and fiendish by changing the rules somewhat. Some levels are the same as before but with more intricate layouts, while sometimes there is a limit to the angles at which you can move the maze, forcing you to use the hopelessly random jump button. Some EVIL levels reverse the gravity, so that the ball falls towards the top of the screen. This is truly hard, and will take ages to get used to.
Password for each field
- No password needed
Each maze is made up of roughly the same building blocks, but each time they arranged in a completely different way. You will encounter while playing...
- Although this serves no real purpose, it is worth mentioning because it is so completely wierd and so very Japanese. There are aquite a few backgrounds which are re used all the time - one has a fish swimming around, one has a giant animated sand timer, there is one which has an island which looks like it's out of the Sonic the Hedgehog universe with a person having a picnic on it... You get the idea.
- The basic grey wall is a square section which forms all the layout of the maze. Sometimes there are triangular sections half the size of a square or "quarter pipe" sections which let your ball roll along to build up speed.
- A large black and white striped section which says goal. All you have to do for each level is get here within the time limit.
- These small brown squares provide paths for you to go around but if your ball has enough speed you can break them and earn yourself 1000 points.
- These indestructible grey balls do the same job as wall sections, ie provide you with a path to follow, but they can do do more intricate layouts.
- These, like, point the way that you go. But when you are constantly rotating the playing area, it is so easy to forget which way you need to head in. These arrows painted on the walls let you know. There are also sometimes numbers on the walls but I have not yet worked out exactly what function these have, if any. They are possibly markers to count down how long there is to go untilt he goal.
- These blocks, when broken with your ball, randomly either take from or increase your time remaining to get to the goal.
- Adds 3 seconds on to your time.
- Adds 5 seconds on to your time.
- Takes 3 seconds off your time.
- Takes 5 seconds off your time.
- These blocks change every few seconds between "Go" and "Stop". If they are on stop when you hit them, they act as an indestructible wall, but if they are on go you can pass straight through them.
- These red areas push your ball in one direction. You can go through them the other way, but it requires a bit of speed. Sometimes they push you in the direction you want to go, sometimes they don't.
- Slightly reminiscent of pinball bumpers, if you touch these you will get 500 points but be bounced very hard in the opposite direction. These can be a help or a hindrance.
- These yellow items simply give you 500 points when you run over them.
- As large as a piece of normal wall, these are the things you have to watch out for most. They are placed all around most levels, and take off 2 seconds whenever you touch them.
- Just like Yellow Squares, except these take 5 seconds off your time. Thankfully, these are quite rare.
The graphics of the game are functional but not excellent. For the Mode 7 rotation to work so smoothly the sprites which are rotated cannot be too complex, and that shows here. The music is quite good although can get repetitive after a while. The sound effects are very typically Japanese, with random laughing sounds when you get time taken off. The gameplay shines through all this though, making the game well worth picking up.
As with many Japanese games, for no apparent reason, some of the text is in English. It was clearly either translated by a person who had never spoken to an English speaker in their life, or, as I think is more likely, Babelfish. When you get a high score you are told that "YOU ARE ARTISTIC PLAYER!". After each course is complete you are shown a completely random picture which includes your ball and at least 1 of the following:
- An Aircraft Carrier
- An anime girl.
- A vase full of Sunflowers
- A guy wearing a baseball cap giving a Victory sign to the camera
None of the above were made up. What's more disturbing is the "slogan
" which accompanies each one. It is the very epitome
of meaningless garbage. One of my favourites is where after completing a particularly difficult level I was shown an Escher
style picture of windows at every angle with loads of balls flying around in it with the slogan "Don't be relieved
" underneath. I wasn't relieved. I was very, very
disturbed. Another good one is a flaming man holding a sword
with the slogn "Yet to be seen try it
". Yes. Quite.
Overall, though, the Engrish does not really detract from the game, and the parts that are in Japanese such as the training text are not necessary - I have done fine in the game with no knowledge of the language.
Overall I would highly recommend that people picked up this game. It is available as a reasonably small download from some ROM sites - it is reasonably rare in this respect, but I'm sure Google will provide some answers. The game is emulated perfectly in Zsnes and reasonably well in Snes9x, although there are some graphical glitches.
The game plays like a dream, with an almost perfect physics engine which means that with practice you will be able to get the ball wherever you want it. The only probem I have is that the jump feature is random, but thankfully few levels really require it. I would recommend this game to any puzzle or action game fans.
UPDATE!!! Further research (I hate that stuff, but it has to be done) reveals that when I said it was only ever released in Japan, I was wrong. It was actually released in English, but it had it's name changed to On the Ball, just to annoy me. And there is an English and a Japanese Arcade version, which is playable with MAME if you want to try it. Overall though, as I mention above, language is no concern in this triumph of gameplay over everything else.
yerricde notes that "So I guess I know where the Super Monkey Ball developers got their idea." - very true. When you think about it, the games are very very similar in overall design.
Triften says "but where did the name come from?!?!" - I am not too sure about this. The title screen of the game shows the ball rolling over two humps that are on the back of a camel, and the title text incorporates a camel design into it. But as to exactly what it signifies, that's beyond me. Anyone?
* - Sometimes, that is...
Playing the ROM in Zsnes.