|Publisher: WE Group Genre: Arcade|
|Min OS X: 10.4|
Arkanoid: Space Ball is a solid instantiation of its namesake, but repetitive gameplay and limited innovation prevent it from distinguishing itself from other Arkanoid clones.
The game's core mechanics can be traced back to Taito's 1986 arcade title Arkanoid, which revised Breakout's ball, brick, and paddle formula by adding features such as level progression (and a final boss), moving obstacles, and power-ups. Arkanoid has been ported to several home platforms (including the MacOS) and it has spawned several official sequels and numerous clones.
Arkanoid: Space Ball plays very much like its predecessor. The game's most noticeable change is that the play field is horizontal rather than vertical, with the paddle located on the right side of the screen and the bricks on the left. The major genre hallmarks remain: multiple levels with various brick designs, numerous power-ups, and occasional interloping enemies that attack your paddle or disrupt the flight of the ball. The strength of Arkanoid: Space Ball is its multitude of paddle enhancements and its variety of enemies. The game offers a glut of upgrades—including lasers, forcefields, and magnetic paddles—as well as some downgrades that can be tricky to avoid because of the fast pace of play. Numerous enemies attack your paddle, causing it to explode or freeze in place for several seconds. Others catch and redirect the ball or obstruct the paddle. All the while, black holes churn in the background, bending the ball's flight path.All of these features make for an exciting level, and ironically this is the game's main hinderance. All of the levels are essentially identical. The game's difficulty remains stable, as does its feature set. The only thing differentiating one level from another is the brick layout, and this changes very little. Similarly, the background music consists of one synthesized techno song that loops continually. Taken as a whole, these elements make the game very repetitive, and there is little to distinguish level 1 from level 50. This uniformity is partially alleviated by the game's built-in editor, which allows the player to create custom levels. However, the build options are limited to selecting a type of brick—many of which look different but behave the same—and placing it on the play field. Power-ups and enemies do not appear in the editor. This makes custom-built levels as monotonous as those built into the game.
Technically, Arkanoid: Space Ball has some useful features and a few quirks. The game can run in full screen mode or in a 640x480 window. Curiously, it does not accept keyboard input, but mice and USB gamepads are supported. Mouse control tends to be more precise, perhaps owing to the analog movements that are at the heart of paddle games. The game seems to run well on modestly-specced Macs, and a demo is available for download. Also, the game allows players to continue from their last completed level, which is beneficial, because the game suffers from occasional glitches after prolonged play that can require a restart. The continuation feature makes this a much less serious issue, although progress is erased if custom levels are played.
The largest technical caveat is the poor English translation. Some of the text is incomprehensible, and as a result, it is advisable to turn off the game's tutorial mode. Thankfully, most players will not need any textual guidance, particularly those who have had some exposure to Breakout- or Arkanoid-style games.
Although this game genre does not require advanced graphics to be playable and fun, Arkanoid: Space Ball does have a solid level of visual polish, including a few nice effects on upgraded balls and paddles. Some of the graphical elements seem inconsistent—for example, the asteroid and kamikaze enemies are rendered 3D sprites, although the bricks and hand enemies appear more 2D—and this can make the visual presentation a little uneven. Overall, however, the graphics are appropriate and functional.
It should be acknowledged that outside of the quasi-legal practice of emulation, there are not many good Arkanoid-like games available for the Macintosh. Arkanoid: Space Ball helps fill this gap; however, it does little to advance the genre, and at $19.95, it may cost too much for an experience that is only briefly engaging. There have been several innovative revisions of classic franchises on the Macintosh—including Maelstrom, Ambrosia's rethink of Asteroids, and Airbrust, Strange Flavour's update of Warlords—but despite its solid visuals and the addition of a basic level editor, Arkanoid: Space Ball is surpassed by its progenitor in the crucial areas of level design and replay incentive.
Pros• Solid classic gameplay
• Level editor
• USB gamepad support
• Polished visuals
Cons• Repetitive levels and sound
• Limited innovation
• Poor English translation
• High cost for briefly engaging content