I love Ambrosia Software. I have loved them since I bought my first Mac, an LC II. Pretty sweet little machine in its day. 4 MB RAM, 40 MB hard drive, 12" color monitor included... *sigh*. Those were the days that the guys at the local Mac lab on campus would let me walk in with blank diskettes and walk out with armfuls of shareware. Here is where I discovered those classics like Solarian II, Armor Alley, and Malestrom. I almost dismissed Malestrom as just another asteroids clone, but let me tell you, friends, I am glad I did not, for many many hours of play on Malestrom sparked my current love affair with Ambosia Software that burns on today. I was tickled pink when given the chance to check out one of Ambrosia's latest: pop-pop.
Being heavily influenced by Arkanoid, pop-pop puts an interesting spin on an old favorite. Basic single-player gameplay is simple enough: you have a paddle you can move on both the x and y axis across a limited field of play. There is a ball you must bounce up and down from the paddle to bubble-like bricks suspended above your field of play. Break the bricks, and sometimes goodies float down to your paddle. Some are good and some are bad, and each affects the gameplay in some way. We all know this part, but then Ambrosia starts to turn up the intensity.
You're given one life. That is, you either clear the level or you don't. At intervals, the bricks lower themselves down to your field of play. If a brick passes the line of scrimmage, game over. You miss the ball, you automatically get bumped down one notch (and lose any bonus multipliers you have), but the ball remains in play. But that's not all! You have a power meter running up along t he side of your screen. Every time the ball connects with your paddle, the meter fills up one slot. You can then deplete those slots to "power up" your paddle, infusing the ball with the ability to bust through several bricks in one blow. If your ball is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, you can hold down the action button (while rolling back your score to zero) to use a big magnet to suck the ball back to you.
Multiplayer just gets better. You can hone your skills against the computer playing at several different skill levels and handicaps, or go head to head with a human opponent online through the magic of Game Ranger. The rules remain the same with a few groovy additions. Here's where the Street Fighter bit comes into play.
That's not to say that you pit player vs. player performing digital uppercuts and jabs on each other, but your characters play head to head trying to clear all of their bricks while sabotaging their opponent's progress in the process. Cleared bricks get added to your opponent's screen. If your opponent can't clear them, they stay on your side. If your opponent does clear them, they get sent back to you as tougher two-hit bricks.
Each character also has a unique "Special" attack. Charging the special takes several units of energy from your power reserves, but once it's charged it will perform some sort of mischief to your opponent -- anything from obscuring the screen with flowers to creating a wind-up bot that walks down your screen, laying bricks in its path.