Every now and then you come across a game that’s a little odd but still manages to be a lot of fun. That seems to be a trend in Pocket PC gaming in the past few months, with several quirky titles often combining two genres. Hyperspace Delivery Boy is an entertaining puzzle-action game wrapped around a quirky plot. Bob the Pipe Fitter is a clever attempt at combining Pipe Dreams and Tetris. Snails is a strategy-shooter based on the Worms genre, complete with a cast of silly characters and loaded with goofy jokes.
Now Mobile Games (www.mobilegames.com) has released Rebound, a title which combines the platform shooter genre with pinball. Pinball and action games have both been around forever on various electronic gaming platforms, but to my knowledge no one’s ever attempted to combine the two.
With no pretense to being an RPG or adventure game, Rebound is designed to be an action game all the way. You’re Geeza, a pumped-up alien with a bright orange suit and a matching plume of orange hair. You’re competing in the 3004 AD Olympics in some fantastic, far away galaxy. Your goal is to get through a pinball-like maze, but it’s not as easy as it sounds—you’ll have to contend with a laser beams, robots, holes, and a host of enemies.
A New Perspective
Rebound runs full-screen in landscape mode. The perspective is isometric, which means you’re looking down at the screen from an angle. The levels are rendered in 3D, with smooth animation and even scrolling. Animated objects—whether robots, laser beams, or your enemies—are everywhere. No matter where you are on a particular level, you’ll almost always see some type of movement, but the frame rate remains rock solid. Although there’s no in-game music, you’ll hear plenty of squeaks, rattles, and various other noises. Geeza will also give you plenty of audible cues when he’s performing an action or getting injured. I found the game’s auditory input to be balanced: sound effects were sharp and clear without being overwrought.
You move Geeza not by using the directional pad (which is reserved for throwing the ball), but by tapping on a circle in the top right of the display. The circle is divided into eight sections, each of which represents a direction Geeza will move. To move Geeza in a particular direction, just tap on the appropriate section. I found this method a little awkward, especially in places where it was necessary to step carefully to avoid falling into a hole. The input method was also a little clumsy when battling enemies. For example, I lost a few lives in the first level to a patrolling robot who kept blasting me away as I was struggling to either dodge his volleys or get into just the right position to peel off a shot. I’d prefer the option of using the directional pad for control, especially since many Pocket PC 2002 devices no longer have the button issue.
The surreal world of Rebound
takes some getting used to. The
objective of each level is to simply get through the maze (some levels are
flat out mazes, others are races), but the game involves a lot more than
just finding the right path and being quick.
In order to get a bonus, you’ll need to get out in the shortest
time possible (in race levels, you’re required to complete the level
within the allotted time; in maze levels, the amount of time you take
determines your score) without getting killed.
And there’s a lot that can kill you in Rebound—dangerous
robots, curious-looking contraptions, laser beams, and even monkeys who
ride bouncing balls. Fortunately,
power-ups are spread generously throughout the levels.
You’ll find a bit of the puzzle game in Rebound as well,
since a lot of the game requires you to hit certain switches to open
doors, shut off laser beams, etc. The
game is based on checkpoints, which turn green after you step on them.
A handy indicator bar in the bottom right section of the screen
tells you how close you are to finishing a level.
Following the Bouncing Ball
So where does the pinball come in?
In Rebound, you interact with your environment by walking,
jumping, and throwing the ball. Throwing
the ball is used to attack enemies (some of which will fire back at you)
open doors (by hitting special triggers labeled “hit me") and earn
bonuses. Aside from the moving objects, each level is loaded with
pinball standards: flippers, rotating spinners (they rotate when hit), and
bumpers (if you want to get technical, these are active bumpers which
accelerate the ball). While you’ll need to hit some objects to progress
through the game, many are included just to boost your score.
Like in pinball, you can control how much thrust you assign to a
particular throw; the amount of thrust is determined by how long you hold
down the throw button and indicated in a strength meter. If the ball happens to leave the screen, a floating green
arrow will help you find it. You
can also hit the throw button again, which, in many cases, will cause the
ball to return to you. There
are even bonus levels, some of which offer pure virtual pinball action.
Rebound is conceptually one of the most interesting games released on the Pocket PC to date, but it’s the little extras that make it a great game. Although there’s no save capability, you can replay any level you’ve completed. Since the game is checkpoint-based, you can restart at your last checkpoint after losing a life instead of at the beginning of the level. Since each level is time-based, the challenge is to see how to shorten your time in completing each level while maximizing your score. Each level is also packed with enemies and obstacles, so you can also experiment with different ways of dealing with them. The pinball elements are used generously in each level, and part of the fun is hitting the spinners and bumpers from different angles to see how many points you can rack up. For example, killing enemies increases your score but also increases your completion time—you’ll need to determine whether its better to kill enemies or simply run past them. Rebound also offers three difficulty levels, so you can always turn it up a notch to make things more interesting. The game also allows you to tilt the screen 180 degrees, allowing left-handed gamers to get in on the fun as well.
If you’re a fan of platform shooters, puzzle games, or pinball games, Rebound is an innovative title well worth checking out. Enough thought went into level design and game play to make playing the game an enjoyable experience. If you’re like me and enjoy all three genres, the game may end up being one of your favorites. Although there’s no downloadable demo, a Web-based demo can be downloaded at www.mobilegames.com. Although the game is available only for iPaq Pocket PCs 3600 and up and older (non-Pocket PC 2002) Casio models, support for other models is planned. The full version of the game costs $24.95 and requires an Internet connection for authorization during the installation process.
Allen Gall is a freelance game reviewer and the games editor for Pocket PC FAQ. If you have a game you'd like Allen to review, you can e-mail him at allen@Pocket PC FAQ