Monday, 26 January 2015

Bat 'n' Ball Games #10

Krakout (1987)
By: Gremlin Graphics  Genre: Bat 'n' Ball Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum  First Day Score: 9,150 (default settings)
Also Available For: Commodore 64, MSX, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro

Welcome to the ultimate challenge! Bold words indeed from the inlay of this 80's brick breaker for the home micros which, like many other such games at the time, was inspired by Arkanoid. In a concerted effort to differentiate their game from the Taito classic, Gremlin have rotated the action ninety degrees which means the ball (mainly) travels left and right rather than up and down, but apart from that things are very familiar here - simply clear each of the stages of the bricks contained therein to move on to the next. A big but not immediately noticeable difference here, however, is that unlike Arkanoid with its thirty-three stages, Krakout asks you to clear a whopping one hundred stages! Luckily a vast majority of these contain far fewer actual bricks though, so they shouldn't take as long to clear - in theory.

The first stage eases you in nice and slowly (giggity)...
The handy options screen offers a surprising amount of customisation before play including changing the ball speed, bat type, and even on which side of the screen you want the bat. Frills aside though, the game is played exactly as you'd expect. You can choose where to release the ball which speeds up the longer you keep it in play and some bricks take more than one hit to destroy. Some of them will 'roll over' when hit too, leaving behind a lettered bonus icon. There are several Arkanoid-ish examples like a larger bat, slower ball, and extra lives, and others include missiles, a double bat, a shield, bombs, and a points multiplier. Each stage also has aliens floating about the place and these have varying effects. Some just deflect the ball but one type will add a ball to the playfield and another very unhelpfully freezes your bat.

Yes, this type of alien does look like a baby's head...
Avoid the bloody wasps that cause this though, and Krakout is quite a decent take on its age-old genre. The graphics are neat and tidy and include colourful bricks devoid of colour-clash, the otherwise limited sound includes a great title-screen tune, and the gameplay is fairly balanced and rather enjoyable. I'm not sure how many players would ever see all 100 stages but it's great there are that many. As with most games of this type, there's an element of luck involved in long sessions, but it's not a particularly tough or unfair game either. Even the skewed perspective doesn't take as long to get used to as I thought it would. Krakout may have been dismissed at the time as a second-rate Arkanoid clone, and I suppose it is to some extent, but that doesn't make it crap - it's actually a pretty decent brick breaker that I've enjoyed a lot.

RKS Score: 7/10

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