I've long been a fan of ball and paddle games, ever since I bought Arkanoid II for my Commodore 64, but I haven't had much luck in finding anything on the Mac that quite lived up to the standard set by Arkanoid. That is, until now. Ricochet: Lost Worlds is by far the best game in the genre to come along in a while.
You've all played Breakout before. Move left and right across the bottom of the screen as your sphere bounces around and destroys bricks at the top. It's a classic formula, and thankfully Ricochet doesn't deviate from it. But it does dress it up with enough power-ups and visual opulence to set it above its competitors.
Graphics & SoundThe game takes place over four different level sets or "worlds": an underwater ruin, a magma crater, an ancient temple, and an alien spacecraft, all of which are beautifully rendered. The underwater Atlantis levels are particularly breathtaking, with schools of fish darting this way and that. It honestly looks better than most of the aquarium screen savers out there. The foreground graphics don't disappoint either. Lasers glow, particles fly, missiles leave smoke trails, and different bricks are destroyed in a variety of elaborate animations. Even your paddle, which is like a little space buggy with an oversized front bumper, fires little horizontal thrusters as you move it left and right. The sphere itself is a reflective multi-sided shape reminiscent of the yes-and-no bit from the movie Tron, only more rounded. It spins and glistens as it knocks around the screen. Juggling eight or nine of them as you fire off a volley of missiles makes for quite the spectacle, and all that eye candy comes at a cost to lower end machines. On my 1.0 Ghz G4, Ricochet: Lost Worlds glided along smoothly for the most part, but stuttered if my mail program received a new message or if someone contacted me over iChat. These are minor hiccups, though, and can be easily avoided by not running anything in the background. To those for whom the game is still sluggish, Reflexive Entertainment recommends disabling background animations for a minor performance boost. Overall, considering the modest system requirements, Ricochet squeezes a surprising amount of graphical juice from the Mac without much of a performance hit.
Ricochet Lost Worlds doesn't disappoint on the audio front; all the in-game sounds are solid and nicely done. The music is your standard video game techno, and you can turn it off as soon as it gets old, which for me was right away. It's not that the music really detracts from the game, but if I have to listen to a tune, I'd rather it be something from my iTunes playlist.
GameplayAs with the other billion games of this genre, there isn't much to the gameplay: move right, move left, hit the sphere, and click the mouse button from time to time. But where Ricochet: Lost Worlds shines is in its hearty helping of power-ups and surprises. First off, the game is loaded with power-ups. All the standard ones are there: guns, sticky pad, slow sphere, multi-sphere, etc. But Ricochet adds things like homing missiles for the more elusive bricks; laser sphere, which gives your sphere a randomly firing laser; and a mini sphere generator, which spawns tiny spheres off of your main sphere each time it hits something. The tiny spheres are unable to destroy bricks until they make contact with your paddle, at which time they bloom into full-sized spheres no different than the sphere that generated them. Things get exciting when eight or nine spheres are bouncing around at once, and if you then pick up a laser sphere power-up, they all flood the screen with a chaotic volley of random laser fire. Needless to say, you'll complete many levels amidst a swarm of confusion, but the game rewards you for every sphere on screen at the end of each level, so it's in your best interest to keep as many going as you can.