Produced by The Blue Ninja (Lars Hutzelmann of Protovision) and released at the Vision Party in 2002, Cascade is an extremely simple puzzle game and as with the hundred other puzzle games available for the C64 there is no storyline. To "crowbar" one in would have bordered on the absurd. Quick, simple action is the order of the day. You must pop as many bubbles as possible, which is only possible if two or more bubbles of the same colour are next to each other. The more bubbles popped in one turn, the higher the score awarded and clearing the screen completely earns you a 500 point bonus.
The single screen game starts filled with a 19 bubble by 10 bubble rectangle. Playing with a joystick, which operates an on-screen arrow pointer, you hover above a bubble with your pointer and press fire. You are "treated" to a two second animated flash, upon which the bubble you selected, along with surrounding bubbles of similar colour, vanishes. The game continues in this way until all of the bubbles are popped or no further moves can be made. At this point it's "Game Over" and if you have scored well you enter your name in one of the five positions in the high score table.
Being brutally honest, Cascade's presentation is rather unimpressive. The text-based title screen consists of the instructions and credits written in bubble effect writing, which is hard to read, surrounded by a plain border. That's your lot. Well, other than a few grey stripes which add nothing to the overall effect. Where is the fancy game logo? Historically, puzzle games always have fancy logos don't they, which take up half of the title and game screens?
This (lack of) presentation continues into the game. The graphics are entirely hi-resolution and although colourful, extremely featureless and bland. I believe the often quoted terms are "functional" and "serve their purpose". The whole appearance smacks of a poor ZX Spectrum game and not that of a computer with, in the right hands, a very capable graphics chip. The saving grace, presentation wise, is the sound. Although there are no sound effects whatsoever, a very pleasing version of Jan Hammer's "Crockett's Theme" plays throughout. Even though it repeats after a while, it is mellow enough not to grate. Note that this version is bug-fixed and updated; in the first release of Cascade, the music corrupted after a short period.
The biggest problem with Cascade, however, lies in its simplicity. There is no level structure, extra hidden bonuses, time limits, surprise doodahs or anything else that adds to the challenge, lastability or enjoyment of a game. Clear the screen of bubbles, score as much as you can, clear the screen of bubbles, score as much as you can, clear the screen of bubbles... you get the idea. The only real challenge is to spot larger sections of similarly coloured bubbles to pop in one go in order to get a higher score and it's not hard to clear the screen entirely if you are careful towards the end.
This review sounds quite negative and it would be very easy to knock this game completely and draw-up a lengthy list of much needed improvements and extensions. But actually, I'm really quite fond of Cascade because it has the essential ingredient of fun and it can be exceedingly addictive! It has that "I must have one more go..." quality and packs more entertainment into its diminutive size than larger, grander productions pack on a whole disk.
Even after playing Cascade continuously for review, I still load it up on occasion for a quick five minute blast, in-between playing a more challenging, rewarding and feature-filled game or surfing the net. It's a similar situation to when people play Microsoft's Minesweeper, in-between working on their Word documents or spreadsheets. Cascade is the C64's Minesweeper: hardly elaborate or long lasting but addictive and fun in short bursts. Simple doesn't mean bad.