Saturday, July 1, 2000

Break out of boredom with Atom Smash


By Heather McDaniel

Recently, Red Mercury came out with an addictive game for Palm devices called Atom Smash. Atom Smash is similar to the Pong type games of the '80s--you have a paddle and you have to knock out a bunch of bricks in order to advance to the next level. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Trust me, it can be a lot harder that it looks. But if you loved games like Arkanoid and Breakout, you will really love Atom Smash.


You can download Atom Smash for a free 30-day trial, but if you wish to continue using the software, you have to purchase an unlock code for $14.95. The application took up 140K on my PalmPilot Professional. Once I had Atom Smash downloaded, I decided it was time to try my hand at this game and relive my youth.

The game comes with a Starter Pak containing 64 levels. You can also create your own levels or download extra levels from the Red Mercury Web site. More on that later. Figure A shows the basic setup of the game.


Atom Smash resembles old favorites like Arkanoid or Breakout.

The controls are simple to master. You control the paddle using the hard keys on your device. The Address Book and the ToDo list buttons will move the paddle left and right, respectively. The Calendar and Memo buttons will do the same thing, only faster. The upward-scroll button launches the ball into play, and the downward-scroll button pauses the game.

As I stated above, the object of the game is to knock out all the bricks in the level. There are several types of bricks. There are bricks you only have to hit once to destroy, others you have to hit twice, and bricks that return seconds after you hit them. The bricks also sometimes drop little bonus items when they're hit, and you have to try to catch them with your paddle. Some items give you extra lives, some change the length of your paddle, and others give you several balls to play with at the same time, as shown in Figure B.


You can increase your odds with multiple balls.

On a grayscale screen, it's hard to distinguish between the different types of bricks. If you look closely enough, you can kind of tell them apart. If you happen to have a Palm IIIc, you'll have no trouble at all. Figure C shows an example of a color screen shot I took from the Red Mercury Web site.


The different types of bricks show up a lot better in color.

Download other levels

The Red Mercury Web site encourages you to download additional LevelPaks created by other players. Best of all, they're free. This is an easy process, and the LevelPak I downloaded didn't take up too much space on my device, only about 5K.

When I went to the Red Mercury site, there was only one LevelPak to download. It's called Coda, and it contains fifty levels. This is a very challenging LevelPak. It's been a lot of fun to play, although it can be very frustrating. There've been times when I just wanted to turn the game off and start over, but I couldn't because I wanted to get through all fifty levels.