Ageing computer hacks among you will no doubt remember Breakout from its arcade days. Using a bat you bounced a ball against a brick wall until you burst your way through. In this 1987 version, substitute spaceship for bat, throw in a few aliens and you have Arkanoid, an arcade hit from Taito.
The barriers are constructed from coloured bricks. Grey bricks must be struck twice before they disintegrate, orange ones are indestructible and are used to create simple mazes. Great accuracy is needed if you are to angle the ball - or should I say energy bolt - into the maze opening.
Barrier design is varied: Traditional rectangular shape, a wedge, a channel of indestructible bricks which zig-zags its way up the screen, and even a giant space invader. Quick thinking, or zealous use ofthe pause button, is essential if you are to assess a new screen's strengths and weaknesses before you lose a life.
Hyperspatial masonry is not the only problem in your battle through the void. Each screen has its complement of alien spacecraft which until level five don't fire at you. They can be destroyed with either bat or ball. Their hindrance value comes in the form of unexpected deflections and quick returns if they fly near your bat. On the plus side you will sometimes get a bounce off an alien which sends the ball through an awkward little gap.
Some of the coloured bricks contain capsules which appear when the brick in which they aretrapped is destroyed. There are seven types, each a different colour and embossed with a letter. The capsule is activated by catching it on your bat. This is not as easy as it sounds as the ball is often returning at the same time.
The first capsule is labelled with an S, and slows the ball, making it easier to hit. Better still is the E capsule which expands your bat to twice its size.
C comes into its own on the screens where you are trying to fire the ball into a narrow gap as it captures the ball and holds it until you press the fire key. D stands for disruption - the ball splits into three causing incredible damage. My own favourite is the L capsule: This little baby arms your bat with twin lasers, so now you can show these aliens what real destruction is!
The B capsule is like a gift from the gods creating a hole in the wall through which you can escape to the next level.
Arkanoid has been beautifully reproduced by veteran programmer Peter Johnson for the BBC Micro.