The First 100% QuickBasic Game Review Magazine
Updated November 20, 2004

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"A Breakout QB game based on the Arcade Classic"

The people of Balotland shuddered in fear as the unthinkable would happen to their kingdom-- a terrible Balotquake! Amidst the rubble an evil being arose, the maniacal Giga! It didn't take long before the Balot people were enslaved, and the planet conquered by Giga and his henchmen.

Luckily, the Balot people have one hope-- the protector of all paddle-like beings, the mighty Balotron! Armed with his trusty BalotBall, Balotron rushes to the scene, hoping to overthrow Giga and bring peace back to paddle-loving beings everywhere...

Game Review
Graphics (n.)
The use of animation and visual effects to stimulate the senses
The game's graphics are it's high point. Despite having been coded in screen 13 in pure QB, Arqanoid suffers no flicker whatsoever, even on a slow computer like a 486. Unfortunately, when you take Arqanoid to a faster computer, you begin to notice a few quirks. Occasionally the game "labors" while updating the screen, slowing everything down to a crawl. This only happened when I played the game on a Windows XP machine though, so I don't blame Relsoft. I blame Microsoft.

Without a doubt, the game's greatest graphical feature is the palette cycles. It's impossible to tell from the screenshots, so you'll have to take my word about how cool this looks. The best example is the paddle - clever use of the palette gives it a "water" effect. Likewise, the text colors are continuously cycled, and when you hit certain blocks the whole screen flashes. They might seem like minute details, but it's so well done that it breathes life into the graphics. 

On the minus side, while Arqanoid looks great for an Arkanoid style game, it looks pretty average when compared to QB games in general-- it just manages to look better than average with a few fancy graphical tricks. Also, while ripped graphics are usually acceptable when coding a clone, Relsoft has perhaps taken it too far. He credits four different sources in the readme file, including DarkDread.

Sound/Music (n.)
The smooth blend of atmospheric sounds and original harmonies
Unfortunately, Arqanoid doesn't have any music. RelSoft makes up for this in part with it's authentic sounding Arqanoid style bleeps from the PC speaker. Still, it sounds a little bland. This game would really have benefitted from a decent soundtrack and SoundBlaster sound effects. 

There doesn't seem to be a way to turn the sound effects off. I didn't go looking for an off switch until I encountered the "laboring" bug on faster computers. If you happen to hit a block when the game slows down, the computer will scream in pain! Again, Microsoft's fault :)

Gameplay (n.)
The precision of control and involvement of character within its universe
It's hard to judge Arqanoid from the gameplay point of view. Arqanoid hardly strays from the Arkanoid style of gameplay. In that sense, the gameplay is excellent - it's not fair to expect anything more from a retro remake than for it to play like the original. While I've never actually played the original Arkanoid, I've played a lot of similar games like Crakout on the NES as well as a few other QB attempts at this style of game.

Compared to these variants, Arqanoid compares quite unfavorably. For a start, there are only three power ups - extra life, increased size of paddle and guns. Although these three are certainly the most important ones, Relsoft has left out quite a few others that make this style of game interesting. 

Second, there is only ever one ball on screen. Also, unlike a lot of other Arkanoid style games, you cannot control the direction of the ball when you hit it. These two factors hugely limit the gameplay of Arqanoid.

The ball in Arqanoid only has two speeds, fast and slow. In Crakout, for example, the ball had a range of speeds and gradually moved faster and faster. There was a powerup in Crakout to slow the ball down. Another big miss is the magnet powerup, which allows you to catch the ball and relaunch it.

Also, there are no negative powerups. I remember playing one of these games that actually had powerups to make your paddle smaller! You had to be careful not to accidentally collect the powerup.

One plus is the variety of game levels. There is a bonus level every five levels and a boss level every ten. In the bonus levels, you have to destroy all the bombs in a certain time limit. While this is a good idea, not being able to control the direction of the ball means that getting the maximum score is purely a matter of luck. I would have liked to see more variety in the bonus level, perhaps a level that makes use of the standard Arkanoid-style power-ups.

The bosses were unfortunately a bit of a disappointment, becoming too difficult because of the lack of control. Once again, not being able to control the ball's direction meant that you were eventually doomed to collide with one of the boss level insects, which have the side effect of speeding your ball up. Because you can't increase the paddle size in the boss levels, this usually means death.

There is also that nasty collision bug that sometimes strikes, but it's rare enough not to cause a problem. There's also that previously mentioned slowdown bug on faster window XP computers. 

Story (n.)
The creativity and presentation of the game's critical plot
(Very Poor) While a story about a race of paddle-shaped people fighting hordes of block shaped foes could be considered a reasonably funny idea, or even slightly original, I think it's asking a bit much. Relsoft goes into a lot of detail about how this "Balotland" has ended up in it's current situation, only to cop out by saying "BTW, Balotron wasn't captured(He was taking a nap outside the city. Or else we won't have a story)." Finally, the "heroic" Balotron takes his trusty Balotball to face the might of Giga's army of... wait for it... colorful blocks.

To be honest, a game like Arqanoid is hard to give a story to. It would have been better if Relsoft hadn't written a story for Arqanoid at all, rather than force a second-rate one onto the game. The worse part is the ending, which is truly bizarre, and doesn't suit the game at all. By the time you've finally reached the end of the game (and it is a VERY long game) you've forgotten who all the characters mentioned in the introduction are. Some brief story interludes (like the QB game "The Terror") during the game would have been nice here, and might have helped to soften the blow. The boss speeches are just weird - one of them makes a strange wrestling reference as well, which doesn't help.

Replay Value (n.)
The timelessness of the gamer's delight, such that the experience can be repeated again and again
Arqanoid comes complete with a very good level editor, something you don't see that often in this style of game. Being able to make your own levels is certainly a bonus and a good level designer could add quite a lot to this game.

If you haven't played this style of game before, Then you'll probably find yourself coming back to it quite a lot. The game is huge (50 levels long) so it'll take you quite a while to finish as well. It also comes complete with a cheat mode option on the menu screen, so you could actually cheat the first time round, and come back and play through the game properly the second time.

Challenge (v.)
To strike the mental nerve in such a way as to stimulate human thought and reflexes
Arqanoid would be harder if it weren’t for the fact that you technically have infinite lives, with a little trickery anyway. Just save at the start of every level and you can load your game every time. I would never have been able to finish the game in one go, so I'm not knocking the save feature - it does, however, leave the game a bit easier.

Arqanoid is challenging enough - I think Relsoft got this bit fairly OK. But a lot of Arqanoid is luck. I was on my last life in a fairly late level, but was lucky enough to get four lives in that turn which pretty much saved my skin. 

Most of the time, all you really have to do is be there to catch the ball when it comes back down. Sometimes that can take a bit of forethought, to predict where it's going to come down.

Fun Factor (n.)
The overall entertainment value as maintained throughout the adventure
Overall, I respect that this is one of Relsoft's earlier projects, and I think some of his more recent products like RelLIB and Frantic Journey are been quite excellent. Perhaps it's the fact that RelSoft has matured so much since Arqanoid that makes this relatively decent game more difficult to handle.

I tend to dislike games that give the player very little control. In hindsight, that's what I didn't like most about this game - not being able to control the ball's direction was downright frustrating. If Arqanoid were an original game, then not only would it have scored a lot better, but I also would have had a good reason to recommend it. As it is, Arqanoid joins the ranks of faceless Arkanoid clones. If you've never played a Breakout-style game in your life, then this is a good place to start. Otherwise, there's nothing to set this game apart from any other Arkanoid clone. 

Arqanoid Reviewed by Terry Cavanagh

Players 1 player Genre: Arcade Game
Rating To solve: 7-8 hours Final Rating: 15/35

To download Arqanoid (238KB), click here.
wIf you're unzipping this program in DOS, you may have to use the -d option.
wMake sure you run "SETUP.EXE" to set the game's operating system and sound settings.
wTo play Arqanoid, unzip the file and run "ARQANOID.EXE".

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Game Summary
Coding Group
Homepage URL
Final Rating
15 out of 35 points

The Highs: Arqanoid plays very smoothly and is fairly challenging.
The Lows: Unless you know what balot is, you'll probably think this story stinks.

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