The Slacker's Guide - Insert Coin for Credit: Arcadrome

November 3rd, 2006

Someone once claimed you can never go back to childhood.

I'd like to argue otherwise.

Granted, I may have spent a bit too much time in the arcade, the original Paper Boy, Spy Hunter, Devastators, Space Ace, Dragon's Lair and the standup/cabinet version of Robocop occupying my complete attention. This was childhood in the 80s and early 90s and if you had five bucks, you had an afternoon's worth of game money as opposed to 10 rounds with a light gun game or timed driving simulator.

Sometimes you wonder how to get this back or if anything can even come close to matching it.

Arcadrome by Adam Hall and Polylex Software Engineering manages to bring it all back. An angled 3D strategy shooter, Arcadrome places the player in the position of gathering crystals on different levels while fighting alien hordes via a lone space ship.

A familiar theme, but still a fun one provided it's done well.

No space shooter is complete without upgrades and Arcadrome does this in spades. Left-click the mouse to fire a conventional laser and right-click (or control-click a single button mouse) to set off a bomb which destroys all enemies in a given radius. Snag or shoot passing power-ups to upgrade your gun, gain additional bombs and receive additional lives.

Game play is what makes an arcade title work and Arcadrome has done several interesting things on this level. First, the idea of variable speeds makes the title compelling. Unlike games that typically control movement through mapped keys, which provides equivalent movement speeds for every direction, Arcadrome pushes the player to control both movement and firing through the mouse. The result is a unit that can move as quickly or as slowly as you want it to at any given moment. Albeit there is a five-minute learning curve on this, the motion begins to feel natural.

Holding off the baddies in Polylex's Arcadrome.

Even though it's one change (though a significant one), the speed variability lends a whole new feel you might never expect from this kind of game. The pacing becomes both hurried and relaxed with the player being given a few seconds to get their thoughts together only to find a mob of enemies with decent A.I. code charging them. As a result, the experience feels more realistic (the player has to run and gun in order to survive) and draws the player in that much more.

When I first saw Arcadrome's graphics, I wasn't sure what to think. Granted, they fit a shareware style and don't compete with those being found in the industry's top of the line games, but either the creators are brilliant, insane or wanted to prove what they could do. Beautiful colors meet detailed surface layers and shadows that move perfectly with the figures. Fire a proximity bomb to kill off nearby enemies and the effect is nothing short of stunning as the explosion half-blinds the player with several mini-nuclear-explosion-esque detonations, then subsides to allow the player to get back to the action. Near-perfect sound only helps the title and whatever Adam Hall and associates have done with their developer kits to achieve this, they need to keep doing it.

Finally, there are bosses. For some reason, the video game industry seems to have shied away from this to a certain extent as arcade-style games became less prevalent in the face of new genres. Still, there was a certain joy in not only getting to the boss, but in finding a way to defeat after a few tries and moving on. Arcadrome provides a new, larger, more powerful monstrosity to battle every 10 levels and doesn't hold back from this.

When the boss shows up, you'll know it..

Arcadrome is available for a $17.95 shareware registration fee that provides full access to 100 levels, new bosses, additional power-ups, the ability to save every 10 levels, bonus music tracks, the removal of registration nag screens and full technical support. The game demo is a 5.6 megabyte download which expands to occupy 13.6 megabytes of disk space when installed and requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, a 1 GHz processor or capable video card with at least 32 megabytes of VRAM. The application is a universal binary and performs well on both PowerPC and Intel-based hardware.

Whatever Polymex is doing over there, they're doing it right and $17.95 isn't too much to ask for a great game that can be played in five minute or multiple hour doses. Give the game a look, see what you think and I'm curious to see what they come up with in the future.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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