Saturday 19 December 2015

Crack-Up! (Atari 8-bit review)

Developer: Simon Leck
Publisher: Atlantis Software
Released: 1989

Crack-Up! is an Arkanoid clone that was released on numerous home computers including the Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64.

It supports 1-2 players and there's a total of 32 levels to clear. Before launching a game you can choose which level to start on between 1-5 but the rest have to be beaten manually. You control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and the objective is to continually bounce the ball onto the blocks at the top; once you've cleared them all you move onto the next stage but if the ball lands below your paddle you lose one of your five lives. As you play special icons fall down and if you collect them you'll gain a power-up; these include Catch Ball (allows you to hold onto the ball) and Laser Bat (gives you the ability to fire upwards to destroy blocks). The controls feel fluid and the ball starts off at a comfortable speed meaning it's possible to ease yourself into the action and get used to the power-ups. Speaking of which, these power-ups rain down at a consistent rate and they provide a great deal of risk-reward as you're constantly on edge thinking about whether you have time to collect them or play it safe. The game encourages you to keep playing too as tons of extra lives are available; you'll definitely need them as things can get very challenging! The levels start off simple enough but as you progress some blocks need multiple hits to destroy and there's others that act as unbreakable barriers; personally I feel that the developer went a bit overboard with the latter and a bit more variety would have been beneficial. Despite the more intricate nature of the later stages they can take a while to beat so some do feel a bit of a chore. Another thing I didn't like is that when you catch the ball you can't decide which direction to release it and instead it always launches off to the right.
Crack-Up! is an excellent block busting game with smooth controls and an interesting power-up mechanic. The challenge does ramp up a bit too quickly for my liking and the unbreakable blocks are overused but there's still tons of fun to be had if you enjoy this genre.
Random trivia: Simon Leck also developed Death Race (1987) and Cops 'n' Robbers (1988) on Atari 8-bit machines.

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