Retro Review: Faceball 2000



Today’s first-person shooters are so bland and boring. Televisions have more than three colors, yet you wouldn’t know that if you’re playing the annual “realistic” monochrome shooter with grumpy tough guys that only ever feel artificial. Oh, the newest one takes place in World War II? Just like most of the other ones before it? What a lovely surprise. Maybe after all these years, they’ll finally learn there were actually battles that took place that didn’t involve American intrusions. I would rather just go back to a time where “FPS” didn’t mean “hyperrealistic bam bam ‘Murican men”.



To be serious for a moment, what we have here is a little game named Faceball 2000. It was originally a game for the Atari ST (under the name “MIDI Maze”), but it’s more commonly known for its incarnations on the Super Nintendo and the Game Boy. In this cult classic, you go around a compact maze killing smiley faces. There are no weapon upgrades, ammo reloads, dynamic level settings, or even player characters. Just shoot away and kill the deformed psuedo-3D atrocities on your screen.

Nothing goes far beyond that basic premise. The level design is confined to a maze-like layout; if you’re not trying to make gunning down smilies a priority. Your main goal is to find the maze’s exit. The smilies may not seem very intimidating at first, but as the game progresses they will make sure to have your butt handed to you several times over. There are several different kinds of smilies, each with variants of standard shooting abilities that are sure to throw you off if you aren’t careful.

Then again, the horrid framerate may be a bigger factor keeping you from being cautious. Faceball 2000 has its fair share of problems despite and because of the era it hails from. I haven’t seen what the Atari ST original is like, but the Super Nintendo version’s framerate has aged as badly as the original Star Fox (maybe even moreso). The Game Boy version, as impressive as it is for an FPS to even play on the system, absolutely chugs in an even worse manner. I’m glad I have the SNES cart and not the Game Boy version. I can’t imagine anybody being able to play this version today, let alone sixteen people in its multiplayer mode.

Yes Sixteen! As in sixteen Game Boys can be connected together via link cables for the maximum player count in its multiplayer. There are some serious technical achievements, but it feels like the game itself has suffered as a result. The SNES version, is better at maintaining some playability – a given. However, its multiplayer is shrunken down to two people. And in the end, the game as a whole doesn’t provide too much beyond its maze-like concept.

Still, it is probably worth looking at if you’re curious enough. If I were you, I would check out Faceball 3000 for a smoother experience. It’s pretty much the same thing as Faceball 2000, except recreated as a free browser game that runs on the Shockwave plugin, a precursor to Flash. You’ll need the Safari browser and said plugin to play it, but the frame rate certainly won’t make you pull your hair out when you do get to play the game.

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