Spectrum 2.0

Review of 'Ricochet'

Rating:3 User: Digital Prawn

This is an interesting budget breakout clone released in 1987 on the Firebird label. Critically savaged at the time of release which is completely understandable as it arrived on the very beginning of the downward slope of the breakout game bell curve. Also when held up to such greats as Arkanoid of the same year, a casual glance reveals Ricochet to appear as quite a pedestrian affair. However, I would like to undo some of the previous negative press this game has had because as a budget title, the game offers considerable depth not immediately apparent to anyone who gives up on it within fifteen minutes.

Firstly, the game was criticised for the bat moving too slowly so that it can't always catch the ball, but seasoned players will already be routinely one step ahead of the ball position after some hours of play. The fact that there is effectively a shield which can take several hits running right across the bottom of the screen means you can deliberately tactically allow the ball to miss the bat on a small number of occasions each level in order to get a more useful power up or even a final brick. Also, the fact that the game starts in a multiball mode is also quite a unique idea as is the power up system giving the skilled player effective control of how many balls are in play a great deal of the time.

The game also allows vertical bat movement which adds another interesting dimension. Again the game was criticised back in the day as moving the bat upwards often causes the player to lose lives. However, in some later levels, moving the bat upwards can allow the user to seal off and trap the ball in the upper part of the screen - often effectively completing a level like this. Again, you can work out various strategies to become better at this game over time. e.g. reduce the number of balls in play to just one as quickly as possible, followed by getting "barrier" power ups which eventually block off the bottom of the screen. Finally you can add "double bat" and then add more balls when the whole lower screen is sealed off. I don't know many other breakout clones where you can think like this.

Finally, the variety of levels is good with some now dated eighties references e.g. to Maggie Thatcher etc.. I just don't know how many levels there are because although I have got quite far in the game on several occasions I have still to master it. So I award a middling score, balancing out the fact that it is a good game if you persist with it for a few hours, but if picked up for mere minutes it seems a poor companion to the faster and graphically superior games of this genre. Also check out the intro music - bizarre yet unique. There's also an intro scroller which should be read if you want to time-warp back to the eighties.

This game like many other breakout clones uses the "floating bus" to synchronise sprite drawing with the raster display for flicker free action. Unlike Arkanoid, I don't think a "patched" version was ever officially released. Therefore this title in its original form probably won't work on a real Spectrum +2A/+3.