Ricochet (Superior/Acornsoft) Review | Everygamegoing - Everygamegoing

Everygamegoing


Ricochet
By Superior/Acornsoft
BBC/Electron

 
Published in EGG #013: Acorn Electron

Ricochet

When it comes to graphic adventures on the Electron, there's a lot of choice. From the haunted house of Spooksville to the cutesy world of The Golden Figurine, there's one to suit every taste. And, stand back from them a bit, and they're all pretty much the same. Flick-screens, running, jumping and using objects. And then there's Ricochet, which must represent the very pinnacle of graphic adventuring on the Electron. It's really no less than five graphic adventures rather than one, with the player able to play different 'Dimensions' (which are loaded in one at a time) by the use of passwords.

Each Dimension is differently themed in almost every respect apart from the character under your control. Sprat, a Small Partially Robotic Alien Time-traveller, must collect an hourglass from each of the five Dimensions to win the entire game... and I think it's fair to say that, if you're determined to help him succeed, you'll be making a commitment of some weeks rather than days. This is the Electron's biggest graphic adventure, some 400% bigger than Palace Of Magic.

Now, with so many graphic adventures to choose from, you may well be thinking "So what? Does it actually offer me anything new?" The answer is a breathless and enthusiastic yes, because you've never played anything quite like Ricochet. The speed at which Sprat rolls around is almost beyond belief. If you find three screens over which you can roll unimpeded by obstacles, you'll find he can cover them all in about a second. Yes, that's right, a single second! Any other graphic adventure seems positively turtle-like by comparison.

Ricochet

Whilst every other element is precisely the same - roaming nasties, bouncing baddies, keys, doors and objects to collect and use - the speed of Ricochet forces the player to play it in a very curious way. Sprat has an energy level, which is shown as a narrow vertical tower climbing the extreme right-hand side of the screen. The baddies, who are of course, themed differently in every Dimension, don't actually do him a lot of damage. So the choice is yours - plough through them at the speed of sound and take the small hit on energy. Or stop, and try to bounce over them.

Bouncing is the other unique selling point. Rather than a jump control, Ricochet has a squish control and pressing it will visibly change Sprat from circle-shaped to oval-shaped in three stages. Releasing the control will 'fire' Sprat in combination with the left or right direction control. He will then, quite literally, fly like a newly flipped pinball, bouncing off any obstruction he encounters before ultimately gravity returns him to earth. It tends to happen so quickly that your mind barely has enough time to process it before it's over. It's very easy to bounce, but it's less easy to judge where or when any bounce will end. Hit a corner at 45 degrees and you'll probably land exactly where you started, for example.

Moving around is therefore not only fast, but also takes more skill than it at first appears. Likewise, the puzzles in the game are not of the simple "bring object a to person b to open up a new passageway" type. Instead they are chaining puzzles of the type more commonly associated with text adventures: "get empty plant pot, fill with soil, add seeds, add water from a tap and then give to gardener (to open up a new passageway)". Hence why you're unlikely to complete Ricochet overnight. Just working out where the different items are, and what you should do with them, is yet another challenge to overcome.

Ricochet

Ricochet is really, really impressive stuff. The unique theme of each Dimension is even reflected in the way levels are designed; the initial "Fortress" level is a gravity-based rollaround apart from the sections that take place underwater, whilst "The UFO" takes the underwater feel and creates levels in space giving Sprat the impression of weightlessness.

It's no surprise that Ricochet was one of the Electron's last ever games. Developers had likely been in an unofficial contest for a few years to develop the "biggest and best" graphic adventure for it, and this is the winner hands-down. Reviewers from both Electron User and The Micro User proclaimed it brilliant, and even Acorn User considered it a must. Personally, I applaud it for its unique playing controls but find its size a little bit intimidating. I have therefore tackled it one Dimension at a time, considering them to be separate games. That's just because I found Palace Of Magic big, so imagining that, after slogging my way through it for two hours or so, there were another four palaces to plough through feels a bit discouraging. That's not really fair criticism though; Ricochet is what it is. And what it is is terrific.

Looking for a physical copy of it to add to your collection? It's generally highly regarded, and sells for around £10 second hand. It also appeared on Play It Again Sam 15, which sells for around the same price, and includes three additional games.

Dave E

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