Ricochet for PalmOS

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Astraware, go to the web site
Requires: Palm III device or newer; Palm OS 3.1 or higher including OS 5.x; Palm & Sony Hi-Res (320x320), Palm Standard (160x160)
MSRP: $14.95 (download)

This is brick bashing for a new generation. Of course it's been a long time since we had to listen to the irritating pong-like beeps of Breakout and all its imitators. Still, Ricochet is another new level of addictive game achievement for Astraware. Rich graphics, challenging game play and decent audio combine to create an engaging, playable enviroment in which to waste endless hours of downtime.

We tested Ricochet on a Palm Zire 71 (PalmOS 5.2.1) and a Sony Clie N760C (PalmOS 4.1). The software installed and ran perfectly on both PDAs. We did not encounter any lockups, bugs, crashes or other problems.

Reflexive has produced an nice stable of games for the PC including a clone of the classic Breakout game which Reflexive called Ricochet. Astraware ported Ricochet to PalmOS and here we are. This version is faithful to the PC release complete with a solid music track and excellent graphic design which shows off the best of the PalmOS display and graphics rendering engine. Leave it to Astraware (the evil progenitors of the insanely addictive Bejeweled) to tweak things perfectly for PalmOS. The graphics in each game level take full advantage of the high resolution displays available these days and looks particularly good on the Palm Zire 71 because of its gorgeous, bright display.

Every part of each level is nicely finished - on all 150 levels (plus powerups) - and we really couldn't find anything to criticize. On the contrary, the well designed levels and our idiotic desire to keep ramping up the difficulty level kept us poking at this thing for hours. Like the original Breakout, only the smooth operators survive. Anticipation is everything in Ricochet - anticipating ball movement, anticipating the next two positions of the ricochet bar, anticipating the results of different brick effects as they're hit, and speeding up those decision processes depending on the difficulty setting.

As for pure playability, if you like Breakout-type games in the first place, Ricochet should be the crown jewel in your collection (at least on PalmOS). The challenge of dealing with the varous brick types adds to the fun. As a matter of fact, many levels use a mixture of brick types and you will be wise to look carefully at what you aim for because, for example, if you hit a Changer brick it will alter the physics of all the bricks next to it. Exploding bricks are fun and definitely help get through a level, but Pusher bricks can actually make a mess of a level by shoving adjacent bricks onto a nearly impenetrable mass. There's always a way to win though, as long as you maintain properly anticipatory control over the ricochet bar.

At first, we hated the ultra fast response of the Palm Zire 71 joystick control built into the device - it moved the ricochet bar much too quickly and we kept overshooting the ball in Easy mode. As soon as we switched to Medium speed however, the fast response of the little joystick was absolutely perfect for the game. On all PDAs, the outside left & right buttons are the best choices (hi-speed response), while the slower inside left & right buttons are better suited to Easy mode. If you've got a device with a joypad or joystick you can it to pause the game, fire the ball and move the ricochet bar.

Cons: Some levels could use a bit more brightness; at the moment, the majority of levels seem very sombre. Ball physics occasionally lag in certain levels but game play is not adversely affected.

Pros: At the beginning of each level, a constructor sets up the bricks as you watch, so you get a chance to see where all the key bricks are located as they're put in place. Obtaining a real arcade feel with a PalmOS game is difficult, but Astraware seems to have done it. Excellent control of the ricochet bar. Fast response to control input. Highly playable, useful scorekeeping. Game play is addictive and there are an enormous number of levels and powerups. Highly recommended.

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