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JadeDragon's reviews and playing tips: Pocket PC games

Arcade Challenge by eSoft Interactive, Price: $9.95
Reviewed December 2004 by Tony Peak

Probably every gamer out there has at one time or another made the comment "I could win with one hand tied behind my back." Well, here's your chance to prove it. eSoft Interactive's Arcade Challenge is a collection of 10 games, all requiring only a single button to play. Simple as it may sound, at roughly $1 a game it's actually quite entertaining regardless.

Control in every game has been brought to a single button press, or alternatively a screen tap. I was actually rather confused the first time I played by the image of the joystick in the corner, as I had expected some movement controls. The games range from remakes of classics to somewhat original ideas, but all are arcade style instant action. The main draw is simply to get a new high score as the challenge gets harder and harder. While things start easy, they quickly turn into maniac reaction time testing affairs after a few minutes in.

Unfortunately, this means starting from scratch every time and working your way through the rather duller opening stages, just to get to the real action 20 or so levels in. I certainly would have loved to seen a difficulty selection, or at least the ability to start on a stage after you cleared it -- perhaps checkpoints after every 5 or 10 stages. I'm sure it would have added a lot of challenge to the title.

While it's true more games could have been included since the controls are so simple, at least half of them are really pretty good games on their own. Toy Factory is a block/gem type game where you must sort toys before they pile up too high, Captain Gravity is a clone sorta like SFCave and its variants, The Fly has you trap a fly by closing in the outer walls, and Aliens is much like the classics Invaders series of games. My favorite though is Jump Bot, a rather simple game of jumping straight up on moving platforms without missing.

The challenge mostly depends on the game. Some games like Litter Bug are pretty easy regardless, while Captain Gravity and Jump Bot are pretty good challenges rather quickly. Most games start off painfully slow and take a good while to really warm up, such as Alienz which doesn't really get tough until the 20-25th stage. None the less, almost all the games are fun and easy to play. The simplicity of it all can make a quick 5 minute session last much longer, and the game play of each is quite solid.

The graphics are solid across the board, and the interface is very clean and well presented. Although looking at a small screen on an already small screen, the games thankfully don't feel crowded or squished at all. A full screen mode would have been nice, but the interface is fun with the pulsing speakers and other nice touches. The soundtrack is high energy and very good, though I do have to wonder how many loops one can take before reaching for mute. Probably enough to get through most play sessions, considering the game's arcade design.
The only thing I can really say is missing from this title is a sense of progress. The high score list is nice and good motivation, but there's unfortunately no online ranking. Without any difficulty setting or checkpoint system, you'll be starting from scratch every game. Some type of guided single player tour through the games at increasing difficulty would have certainly increased the value as well. Had the number of games been higher and the amount of progress been more measurable, this would be a truly excellent collection of simple games. As it stands it's a great distraction in short bursts, simple and to the point gaming without the hassle.



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Pocket PC


Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics The GUI is great, it's clear they put a lot of work into it. It's clean, efficient, and professional. It really sets the stage well, and the in game graphics are all very high quality as well. They certainly didn't skimp on the quality just because the games are simple. None the less, they are indeed simple by design.
Sound I like the soundtrack a lot, high energy, pretty good bass, really arcade like. You could certainly identify the music to this game easily enough, which I consider a big plus when so many tracks are generic beats. A bit more variety depending on the game, or at least a few more tracks would have been nice though.
Fun Meter Jump Bot, Captain Gravity, Alienz, Toy Factory, and The Fly are great pick up and play fun anytime, anywhere. The other 5 are good time wasters in their own right, even the incredibly odd Litter Bug. It's hard to go wrong with quick arcade games that only take one button to play.
Addictivity Hopefully a difficulty or checkpoint system will be introduced to help keep things a bit fresher. Starting from scratch every time sort of kills the desire to keep going when you've got to sit through 20 stages you could play with your eyes shut, especially after having played them so many times. Even so, the games are still easy to come back to just because they're fun.

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