Arcadrome, PolyEx’s freshman shareware game offering for Mac OS X, is a bit of arcade-style action that’s the gaming equivalent to a popcorn movie—not a lot of substance, but a lot of fun anyway.
Arcadrome’s story involves the classic conflict between humans and aliens—even the developer acknowledges the hackneyed storyline in the game’s description: “Aliens are going to capture planet Earth (as they always are).”
You’re the captain of an armed spaceship, and it’s up to you to save mankind (of course). Your job is to visit the aliens’ vehicle launching site—the Arcadrome—and capture their energy crystals, leaving them without a fuel source. Of course, this mission isn’t covert—you’ll be facing armed resistance right away.
These Arcadromes are compact square platforms in which you’ll find yellow energy crystals distributed randomly throughout. You have to capture them all, fight back the hordes of alien ships that appear from conduits on either side of the Arcadrome and then proceed to the next level. Your display shows you how many crystals are left to collect on each level—when you’re done, a bright arrow appears projecting from your ship to tell you where to find the exit to the next level.
You’re Not the Boss of Me
Here’s one of the many bosses you’ll square off against in Arcadrome.
You can collect powerups, which can increase your score or your ship’s firepower or defenses (giving you an extra smart bomb that clears the field around you, for example, or a triple-shot gun). But many of these powerups fade after a few seconds. That’s usually enough to inflict some serious damage on the enemy, who’s not bereft of some strategy of its own—different alien vehicles show off different talents. Some will mine the Arcadrome, for example, while others might steal crystals when you’re not looking. Some just go for head-on kamikaze-style attacks. Powerups aren’t just transitory—they’re also volatile. While your guns can easily blast the bad guys, they’ll blast the powerups too, so you can’t just go through each level mashing the fire button.
Every 10 levels (there are 100 in all), you’ll find a new Boss—a larger, more devastatingly powerful alien ship that you’ll need to use your wits and your firepower to compete against. If you make it through, you can also save your game every 10 levels. This features irritates me—I hate being forced into artificial restrictions on when I save my game. Just let me save at the end of each level, or save for me automatically.
Arcadrome is displayed using forced perspective, but don’t confuse this with old fashioned isometric graphics—the game is 3-D. When your ship is at the bottom of the platform, the graphics scale larger to give you the sense that you’re closer to the action, and when you’re at the top, it looks like you’re farther away. All of the game control is done with the mouse, from steering your ship to determining velocity to firing. The game plays better if you have a multi-button mouse, since the second mouse button is used to control your bomb.
In fact, Arcadrome is almost unplayable if you depend on a trackpad—I highly recommend you use an external mouse even if you’re playing this game on a laptop. Try it for yourself, though; PolyEx offers a time-limited playable demo version.
Options are minimal. You can adjust sound volume and mouse sensitivity, choose from two different types of input control, and adjust some graphics settings. Unfortunately, there’s no resolution support nor is there a windowed setting, so users of LCD monitors will see “fuzzy” scaled graphics.
Arcadrome can use some play balancing. Easy mode is almost absurdly easy, while the other three difficult levels ramp up a bit too quickly.
The bottom line
Ultimately, Arcadrome is a trifle—there’s not a lot of gameplay involved. But its “twitch factor”—the level of raw, kinetic action you’ll find here—makes it a fun diversion worth checking out.