Reviewed: April 27, 2004
Released: April 8, 2004
Do you remember the arcade game Arkanoid, that addictive little gem whose basic premise – moving a paddle left and right to deflect a ball and smash bricks above you – was enough to enthrall you for hours on end and make every quarter seem as if it was burning a hole in your pocket? Nah, me neither, but the folks at Reflexive Entertainment sure haven’t forgotten, and with their newest release Ricochet: Lost Worlds, the latest installment in the acclaimed Ricochet series, they’ve aimed at putting the action back in an arcade classic by putting a new twist on an old favorite and reintroducing it to a whole new generation of gamers.
Ricochet’s premise is devilishly simple. Deriving its gameplay from the arcade classic Arkanoid the goal of the game is to move your paddle back and forth across the screen, deflecting a ball and smashing bricks while making sure not to let the ball fall into the bottomless space beneath you. So far so good. Using this ingeniously simple (and highly addictive) premise Ricochet then proceeds to put a modern no-holds barred blast ‘em up twist on the concept, transforming it from a mild mannered paddleball derivative into an explosively wild experience.
Ricochet does this by enhancing familiar aspects of Arkanoid-esque gameplay and throwing in a few extra goodies of their own. No longer are players forced to use a boring paddle – in its place is a speedy little craft, rather akin to a VW Bug whose ultra-cool looking propulsion jets spurt out to the left and right, continually giving the impression that you’re stopping on a dime. The craft holds up your paddle, which can become longer or shorter depending upon what kind of power up you grab.
Power ups come in a variety of flavors and are both beneficial (read: cool) and harmful. They are unleashed whenever your ball smashes the right brick then gently sink to the bottom of the screen. You'll need to pick it up while keeping your eye on the ball. Power-ups can enhance your paddle or your ball or even the playing field. For instance, nab a 3-way power up and you’ll be granted three balls instead of one. Get a speed boost and your ball will go soaring at 80 miles per hour - yes there is a speedometer. Conversely, wind up with a slow ball and your brick-smashing sphere will start to resemble the tortoise racing the hare.
There’s tons more: You can acquire lasers for your craft (extremely fun to blast those bricks while your ball does its work), a power up that allows the ball to stick to your paddle when it comes down (a very convenient one; enabling you to aim it precisely where you want), acidic corrosive power for your ball (allowing the ball to slowly melt away portions of stubborn ‘unbreakable’ blocks wherever it touches them), laser safety nets (good for one use; will bounce the ball back up in case it slips past you) and so much more. What all these goodies amount to is a fast paced and fresh experience – each little add-on and power-up keeps the levels interesting and new.
In addition to all the fun power-up presents you get to unwrap, Ricochet: Lost World’s level designers made the environment highly malleable, meaning that certain blocks are placed at certain key locations to achieve spectacular effects. For instance, one explosive block could be nestled amongst a horde of metal unbreakable blocks. Hit that one powder keg however and BOOM! The entire area surrounding it detonates into a domino effect that rivals the Fourth of July.
The way the blocks are set up changes with each level, and each set up presents a new challenge. Just how will you maneuver your ball into the far right corner – blast your way through by detonating explosive blocks, angle the ball diagonally by letting it bounce off the right fin of your paddle or perhaps a combination of both? Decisions like these constantly present themselves, giving the player only a short amount of time to decide as the ball comes hurtling down towards your paddle.
Don’t worry about pressure though – this is entirely about fun, presenting the paddleball theme with a wow factor to keep players engaged and entertained. You’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the creative way in which Ricochet makes each level come to life in its own special way. One of my personal favorites occurred when the entire horde of blocks facing me came alive as a gigantic space alien and started to chomp at my poor little mini-ship!
There is also an underlying goal in the form of Gold Rings. There are five rings on each level, and if you collect all five you get bonus rings and for every 35 rings you get a free ship. Some rings are easy to hit while others are tucked away inside bricks or hide off the edge of the screen only to appear at random intervals. Often, the biggest challenge is getting the final ring before the final brick, otherwise the level ends along with your opportunity.
Ricochet: Lost Worlds is the second game in the Ricochet series, and this time around the folks at Reflexive opted to leave the space themed genre behind to take players on a wondrous tour of the imagination. Many slightly familiar, yet still strangely alien environments will form the backdrop of each level series, ranging from ancient under water ruins that evoke the spirit of Atlantis to deep subterranean rock encrusted levels filled with molten lava overtones.
In each case the environment is detailed and well done – it’ll probably remind you of a screen saver in a way – and while you’re busy blasting blocks and bouncing balls of legions of bricks you’ll find that the animated motion of the objects and inhabitants of the background enhance the experience and don’t distract. If it does prove to be too much, you can always turn off the animated motion in the options menu.
The layout of the interface itself is clean, orderly and well put together. Mechanical arms race out on either side of the screen and arrange the blocks for each new level, and your score, points, bonuses and level information is conveniently placed to the right of the game board. One can’t help but wonder if the next installment of the Ricochet series will utilize 3-D animation. In the meantime however, there’ll be more than enough eye candy to engage players.
Ricochet: Lost World features an adrenaline pumping techno soundtrack that, surprisingly, enhances the experience. It’s fast paced, not overly obnoxious and has a very mechanical robotic feel to it. The music changes with each level series and can be muted if so desired. The sound effects are great too – explosions blasting, balls bouncing everywhere, blocks crumbling – a panoply of arcade like effects bring back memories of the good old days when every quarter really did burn a hole in your pocket.
Ricochet has no multi-player component, but throws more than enough single players levels at you to ensure that you’ll be brick blasting for a long time to come. That’s a large quantity enhanced by the fact that each level is new and distinct. You can tweak a whole bunch of audio, visual and interface options and the game even allows you to pick up exactly where you left off – even right in the middle of a level. This kind of control usually comes standard with AAA titles, and it’s a pleasure to see it here too.
Lost Worlds also comes with an intuitive Level Editor that allows you to easily layout your own boards by placing bricks and power-ups. Reflexive already has several hundred quality levels on their website and are always looking for new submissions, so there is virtually no end in sight for your potential enjoyment of this title.
In conclusion, you’d be hard pressed to go wrong with Ricochet: Lost Worlds. The game takes a classic arcade favorite and splashes on a new coat of paint that revitalizes and energizes the entire experience, even as the levels progress into harder difficulties. A great soundtrack mixed with cool sound effects ensures that your speakers will get a good workout and the interface and control couldn’t be more intuitive.
Players of all genres would do well to take another look at independent arcade-style classics like Ricochet: Lost Worlds. A ton of good old-fashioned simple fun is in store for them, proving that, at least as far as arcade games are concerned, you can go home again.