As the Palm matured, the quality of games consistently improved. We went from the likes of Kyle's Quest to Solskia, and from Hardball to Adaball.
Adaball is a (yet another) Arkanoid clone. What sets it apart, though, is the RICH colourfulness of it. This is one of the first Palm games (that I know of) that use the whole 16-bit palette, resulting in some extremely pretty graphics. The colour gradations are ultra-smooth, and the nifty little explosions and other superfluous effects are really quite neat.
The goal of the game is quite simple: you have a row (or pattern) of bricks, and you have to bounce a ball around using a paddle, trying to get rid of the bricks by smashing the ball into each brick. Kind of like in Pong. It sounds simpler than it actually is, though: this particular Arkanoid clone makes things much harder for you. The speed of the ball increases (apparently) whenever the the game wants it to, and the ball always tends to go ever so slightly the wrong way. Could be a loser's fallacy, though - I can't really blame the physics engine, it seems rather flawless.
There is a variety of powerups to be picked up to make things easier for you. There is a 500 point bonus for your score, a blue/red ball to slow down/speed up your ball, a triplet ball to eject two additional balls out of your main ball (note that one of them always shoots down, and you’re generally unprepared for it, so that’s really a two-ball thing, rather than three). There is also an extra life power-up, a “flip the controls” power-up which inverts the direction in which your paddle moves, a weapon power-up to blow stuff up, and a dynamite ball power-up, also to blow stuff up, except with the ball, rather than your paddle. Basically, the power-up array more or less mirrors Arkanoid again, which is cool by me, I never said I had any problems with that, did I?
The levels are, to put it in good terms, “challenging”, and to put it in real terms, “convoluted”. Coupled with the ball changing speeds randomly, this makes for some TOUGH gameplay. Let me recommend one thing that I figured out: play with your stylus, not with the buttons, because the buttons don’t move the paddle fast enough, but you run a halfass chance of getting the paddle there in time with the stylus. The level design throws you a bone sometimes, though, which I appreciate. Sometimes, you will have dynamite bricks that will blow up some stuff around them (not enough! Not enough!). in this other level, there is a cordoned-off area, and a brick is blocking it that ejects an extra ball into the area. Which means you can slam that brick with your ball once, and then you can even let your ball fall down and let the game play itself for a few minutes, ‘cause there will be *plenty* of balls and you don’t have to worry about them falling down! There must be more cool levels, but, as I mentioned in the last… no, this… no wait, every paragraph since the beginning of the review, this game is VERY hard, so I only managed to get through about 16 levels of it thus far – there are 32 in total.
One thing that I wanted to leave to the end so that I could drool over it uncontrollably, however, are the graphics. These are by far, FAR, the best graphics I’ve ever seen on the Palm platform. I didn’t even *know* a Palm could look this pretty. I recently endowed myself with a Palm m505, and this is the first application I show to people that don’t believe in dropping an extra $300 for a colour device. The animation is fluid, everything on the screen vibrates with colour, and even the bricks aren’t a static background – they always glitter and disappear in flashes of colour. It’s very difficult to explain, especially seeing as Palm has always been greyscale, and most attempts at colour games have been limited to colouring the sprites appearing on the screen. Well, this is different. This is an actual, beautiful-looking game for the Palm which has NOT been done simply by colouring the sprites. I am immensely, immensely impressed with the graphics. I have truly seen nothing like this ever before, and I sincerely hope more games will come that really use this power I didn’t know the Palm had.
To wrap things up, this is my one-line impression of Ababall: it’s very damn hard, but it’s worth it. The graphics will blow you away, and the challenge just sort of keeps you going (not like Atom Smash, where I simply got bored of playing after I hit about 10 or 15 lives). Try the demo of the game, which includes 4 levels, and then, I would strongly recommend buying it. This is a rare jewel on the Palm. It’s a bit large (650 KB), but hey, I’m sure you don’t need all those other apps, do you?