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By Chris De Herrera 
Copyright 1998-2007
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Arkaball Review 
By Allen Gall, Copyright 2002
Revised 11/12/2002

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          Soviet software developer SPB (known primarily for their Palbum image file viewer) has released a breakout game by the name of Arkaball.  As the title indicates, the game makes no pretense about being anything other than a simple Arkanoid clone.  That's actually a good thing in this case, since it allows the game to focus on what makes breakout games fun: keeping the ball in play, collecting good power-ups and avoiding bad ones, and losing yourself in a Zen-like trance while you “break out” the barrier.  (Incidentally, one of the first breakout games, Super Breakout for the Atari 2600, got its name from the “plot:” you were an astronaut using your ship to “break out” of a wall of bricks that suddenly formed in front of you.)

          The usual bells and whistles are all here: plenty of colorful bricks (some of which change colors and require multiple hits), interesting level design, and a variety of power-ups.  Fortunately, the use of power-ups is generally more balanced than in other titles.  In Bust 'Em, for example, the power-ups were so pervasive that collecting them at the beginning of the level often led to a chain reaction effect--the player could simply sit back and let the level finish itself in a matter of seconds.  Although the power-ups--good and bad--don't really introduce anything new, there are enough of them to keep you wandering what's next, and you’ll still spend most of your time hitting the bricks yourself.  Sound effects are a little uneven; you'll hear a satisfying crunch sound whenever you've smashed a brick, but you'll be treated to a blood-curdling female shriek whenever you lose a life.

Arkaball is about as conventional as you can get in a breakout game, but the levels are decently designed and the game has a quality feel.

          You won't find much in the way of settings--the only thing you can really do is turn the sound off and on.  The game also lacks save options, and there’s no way to restart a level without beginning all over again.  One nice feature that some of its competitors lack is the ability to use the directional pad to control the paddle.  Control is crucial here, and I found the movement to be neither too slow nor too jerky.  The only issue I noticed with the game was that there appeared to be some odd slowdowns during game play.  These may be caused by frequent access to my storage card, which is fairly unusual in a game which takes up relatively little space.

          SPB chose to release a breakout game for a platform that doesn't need any more games of this type.   Still, this game has a quality construction that many of its lesser brethren lack.  Arkaball doesn't add anything new, but it performs its job well enough.  B+

          Arkaball is available for iPaqs and all Pocket PC 2002 devices.  A demo is available, and the full version can be purchased at PocketGear for $9.95.

Allen Gall is a freelance game reviewer and the games editor for CEWindows.NET. If you have a game you'd like Allen to review, you can e-mail him at allen@cewindows.net

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