Zap't'Balls was released by Elmsoft (Elmar Krieger) in 1992, and is a conversion of the arcade game Pang, which was only ever released by Ocean in cartridge format for the Plus machines. Elmsoft, who was an experienced demo coder, used a lot of effects and tricks from the CPC demoscene to polish up this game. According to an interview in the April 1994 issue of Amstrad Action (issue 103), he offered to convert Pang to the normal CPC machines, but Ocean refused. However, he had spent too much time working on his conversion to abandon the project.
The game itself is available in two versions: Zap't'Balls, which was originally released as a 29-level 'demo' on the coverdisc of the German CPC magazine CPC Amstrad International and could be freely copied, and as Zap't'Balls: The Advanced Edition, the complete version with many more levels, which was released commercially. The Advanced Edition also contained an intro that was originally planned as Elmsoft's part for the Cuddly Demo. Both versions require 128K of memory.
It has been said that Elmsoft promised a sequel, but only if nobody would crack his game. However, only a few weeks after the release of Zap't'Balls, the French cracker Chany of NPS cracked it and distributed his crack widely.
Amstrad Action review controversy
Simon Forrester reviewed Zap't'Balls: The Advanced Edition in the February 1993 issue of Amstrad Action (issue 89), on his first day in the job of Staff Writer. He gave the game an overall rating of 85%, with 90% for graphics and 80% for sound. Although he remarked that "it has amazing graphics and real gameplay," and "you'll be playing it 'til you drop," many CPC scene members, particularly in Germany, felt that it deserved a much higher rating. Several issues later, Simon wrote in his rhyming review of Super Cauldron (which was also programmed by Elmar Krieger) in the June 1993 issue of AA (issue 93) that "Zap't'Balls was slightly cack. Though studded with a nice effect, they interfered, so the game was wrecked."
Odiesoft wrote a letter, which appeared in the October 1993 issue of AA (issue 97), complaining that Simon's review was "totally amateurish" and that "this game is worth at least 95 per cent, not just 85 per cent." AA's editor at the time, Dave Golder, responded that "Zap't'Balls... looked like [a] poor rip-off of Pang", and he thought that "Simon was a bit too generous giving Zap 85 per cent."
In his interview with AA, Elmar Krieger said that "the review itself was simply a major disappointment, and it would seem that many people share that opinion," and "in many magazines, 85 per cent is a really good mark, but in AA so many games which, in my opinion, were dreadful, got over 85 per cent, that it seemed somehow ridiculous."
But despite the controversy caused in the European scene, the British scene (AA's target market) was largely supportive of Simon's review, with Zap'T'Balls also coming in for criticism in Better Than Life and other fanzines.
- "Right then. Here's how it goes. It was my first EVER day on the job, and so I was understandably in a good mood and feeling generous. And even when we gave it the mark we did, everybody started screaming! So why, now, does everyone suddenly agree with me?"