By all accounts, Ricochet Infinity – despite being the follow-up to a hugely-popular series which also includes Ricochet Lost Worlds, Ricochet Lost Worlds: Recharged and Ricochet Xtreme – shouldn’t work.

Featuring the standard Arkanoid clone setup (given several lives, attempt to clear varyingly-patterned grids of bricks by using a bat – or in this case, spaceship – to bounce ricocheting balls into them) and galaxy-spanning sci-fi plot, it’s hardly an original undertaking.

But what truly amazes and astounds about the title the more you play into it isn’t just the staggering variety of bonuses, stages and special effects offered. It’s also the brilliant execution with which the entire package is delivered, helping tie together any lose ends, and win even the most jaded player over with its singular sense of atmosphere and intensity.

Whereas most games in the genre begin with a whimper, or at least slow, leisurely learning curve, you know you’re off to a great start when Richocet Infinity literally opens with a bang. Within 15 minutes of starting career mode “Main Tournament,” you’ll already have encountered spinning and undulating lines of metallic blocks; teleportation devices that transport balls every which way; and even machinegun-style laser-spitting turrets. Call it a surefire sign of what’s to come – literally hundreds of levels of attention-getting and inventive arcade fun, with stages painstakingly crafted and skillfully animated to look like roaring moon buggies, rabbits popping from hats and even roiling schools of jellyfish.

Even better, once you progress a ways into the game, you can choose the locale you’d next like to visit. Meaning that if you get stuck on stages featuring key-requiring locks; the destruction of explosive bricks; or elimination of space invader-like extraterrestrials that infect on-screen objects, well… You can always pull back or skip on ahead to those boasting generators that grant you the ability to reach otherwise indestructible targets with arcing bolts of electricity, or slot-machine like squares that dispense power-ups when struck enough times that several of the same bonuses are displayed within. Oh, and should you tire of the huge array of challenges on offer in the base game entirely? There’s even an option to download extra user-created levels, which takes just seconds, and ensures nigh endless replay value.

Consider it just a bonus that the title handles like a charm, and offers a dazzling array of special weapons and abilities. Never mind the vast range of selectable ships with varying powers and specialties you’ll earn through continued progression, or collectible ranks and trophies one can attain. The real star here are power-ups themselves, which include sizzling acid balls that visibility eat away at struck targets; heat-seeking stinger missiles you can spit forth on-command; life-guarding safety bumpers; or probes one can dispatch that, when summoned back to your ship, cut right through anything standing in their way. You even, as a base option, posses the talent of recalling balls – forcing them to move towards your vessel, and thereby altering their flight path – by holding down the right mouse button. All told, base handling and peripheral features couldn’t be cooler: A real feat for a largely derivative title that falls into such an already played-out genre.

And while sound (think pesky techno tracks, repeated ad infinitum) and visual quality (graphically, it’s still a few years back from today’s crowd-pleasing 3D masterpieces) could use improvement, let’s not nit-pick. Thanks to the speed and fluidity with which everything moves, including the striking background animations from dancing aliens to spinning asteroids and swimming schools of exotic fish that add ever-present character, there’s little sense complaining. While hardly perfect presentation-wise, especially in terms of menu screens and other ambient details, this is a game whose sum total is far greater than the failings of any individual part.

By constantly keeping players amused and intrigued, the game never fails to impress, even if you’ll eventually tire of engaging in the same repetitious base play mechanic. Looking for a way to waste a few days, however, that’s at once both familiar and yet strangely novel unto itself? Given the selection of digital diversions currently available online, you could do much worse than Ricochet Infinitely – and not much better.