by PocketGoddess on September 27, 2006

StarPop! is one of those simple little games that get you hooked really fast because the concept is so simple: just pop everything that moves by tapping your stylus on the screen of your Palm OS or Windows Mobile device. Each game features ten unique themed stages from balloons and snowflakes to coins and flowers. Each time you tap an item, it breaks apart into smaller items of a similar type–in much the same way as the classic arcade game Asteroids. On the fruit stage for example, you start out with relatively large apple halves, which then break down into oranges and then into strawberries. The smaller items can sometimes fly away in different directions so they’re hard to catch (which strongly reminds me of the arcade classic Asteroids), but the quicker you tap them the higher your score and the more likely you are to reach the bonus stage for each round.

Astraware StarPop!

The bonus stages are important because you can really rack up some points, and fast. Depending on how well you do each round, you’ll have up to 15 seconds to play a bonus stage, during which objects will either fall from above (stars, coins) or float up from below (balloons, water bubbles). You get some serious bonus points for each item you hit during a bonus round (sometimes as much as 6000 points) and if you’re fast enough to hit them all without letting any get away, you’ll get even more bonus points at the end of the round. The amount goes up for each level, and thankfully you don’t have to be perfect on each bonus level for them to increase each time–otherwise you’d drive yourself nuts, and the object of StarPop is to be fun and relaxing, not nerve-wracking.

Since this game is geared toward kids, there’s no penalty for not being fast enough– the key concept here is fun, and plenty of it. Younger kids will just enjoy popping the items and clearing each stage, without having to race like nuts to do it fast enough to prevent the game from ending. That isn’t to say that this game won’t appeal to adults though–I find it quite charming and I’ve made it into a challenge because I’m always trying to get a higher score. It’s nice to see a game that is appealing to all ages, and that you don’t have to worry about giving to your kids due to violence, suggestive content, offensive language, etc.

The graphics and sound effects are simply perfect–candy crunches when you pop it, balloons pop, and stars “twinkle” in varying tones depending on their size when you pop them. The music is fun and upbeat but a bit repetitive, so you’ll be glad to know that you can control the sound effect and music volumes independently of each other, or mute them entirely if you wish. There is also a bonus unlockable character for each stage; my two favorites are the bright red lips that make a loud kissing sound when you tap them and the gummy bear that inhabits the candy stage–he giggles and shakes when you tap him. I’m not exactly sure how the bonus characters get unlocked, but I’ve been playing for two weeks now and have unlocked eight of ten. The game keeps track of statistics like total number of games played, total time played, misses, and “shines” caught and missed; the statistics are a nice touch, but not really necessary. There’s also a high score table that tracks your best efforts for each game, which is especially fun if a family has multiple StarPop! players on the same device.

StarPop! is available for Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices, and I recommend it highly. Kids will love it because it’s fun, and adults will love it because it’s cute and fun to play too–or it can keep your kids busy while waiting at a restaurant, in the car, etc. The game is normally $19.95, but you can get it for the special launch price of $9.95. Get the demo or buy a copy at the Astraware online store.

5 out of 5

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