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Break'em All: Breaking Loose

Company: D3

If you've ever played a video game, then you have probably played one in this style. You control a paddle and bounce a ball up and down the screen, trying to clear away all of the blocks arranged in some cute little pattern. We all know the basic formula, right? Well Break'em All takes this classic game design idea and stays true to it while still providing several modes to keep you entertained in new ways.

So what makes Break'em All so different? Well, the most notable difference is that you use your stylus to slide the paddle across the board. This change in the standard game mechanics makes you feel like you are more involved in the game's events than the simple tap left/right control scheme of the past.

The other difference is the ability to use power ups which are selected at the beginning of the game. Before starting off, you are asked to choose a series of power ups that will be available to you as you earn points. These power up choices include things like speed up your ball or slow it down, catch the ball or bounce it back in the same direction, increase your paddle size or shrink it (for more points per hit). At first I didn't see a whole lot of use in this system, but when I started using it, I found it to be a great way to clear a level faster and earn a higher rank.

Break'em All will have three gameplay modes: Tokoton, Quest and Survivor. Each of these modes are radically different, and offer various ways to play the game. So here is a brief description of each.

Break'em All's Tokoton Mode sends you through level after level of block-breaking goodness as you earn points to evolve your character. In this mode, you start off as an amoeba and after accruing enough points become a fish and so on until you eventually evolve into "Supreme Break'em Master of All". Though all that really "evolves" is a picture on the top screen, which also lists things like level, points, etc. From what I gathered, as you progress to new stages of evolution, you can save your character and start back there later. Unfortunately, the save functionality was not enabled on the preview build I had to play with. Basically, Tokoton Mode is a good way to play the game, whether you are stuck in a car for a long trip or just a short break between classes.

And, if you are getting bored with the same set screen patterns, this mode also allows you to play random levels. Whether this randomness is the actual level generation or what order you attack the levels in, I'm not sure; but the game does have a drastically different feel every time you go into it.

Quest Mode is the game's "Story Mode". And, while Break'em All doesn't actually have a story, there is a set series of levels and bosses that you will have to go through in order to progress in this game.

Each "world" consists of several (it looks like three, but I'm not sure if that number is constant throughout the game) levels that follow the basic theme of the world. For instance, one world might have areas of water that will slow down your ball, while other worlds might have switches that you have to hit in order to unblock the exit area. Once you have gotten your ball through the hole at the top of the screen (even if you haven't cleared all the blocks), you move on to the next level.

Eventually, you meet the boss of that world. Each boss has their own style and their puzzle. I could only get past the first four or five each time I played, and the preview build's inability for me to save kept me from going any further, but the bosses I faced were diverse and challenging. For instance, the first boss, The Condor, required that I hit several blocks near the "eye" (a red ball that you have to hit in order to beat the boss). Once you hit all of the blocks, you then have a clear shot at the eye. Meanwhile large tiles appear out of nowhere and tend to mess up your ball's targeted trajectory.

Another boss, The Whale, was a large metal object with the red ball appearing in the center. First, I had to break a series of blocks appearing between my paddle and the eye itself, and then I had to destroy the blocks rotating around the eye before I could attack it and beat the boss.

Survival Mode is probably the most atypical mode in Break'em All. Here, you aren't controlling a ball trying to break blocks, you are controlling blocks trying to keep them from being hit by a ball.

Before a game, you choose the block configuration you want - some are shaped like H's while others like I's or T's. At the center of all of them is the block you are trying to protect. As you play, you try and bounce back all of the flying balls with the blocks that aren't critical to your survival. If your Life Block is hit three times, you are out. This also serves as the game's multiplayer mode. You and several of your friends can play it out in an arena of flying spheres in order to see who can survive the longest.

Break'em All looks like it will be a great game and is designed perfectly for a portable system. You can either play a quick level or keep playing to see how far you can get in whatever time you have available to you. Definitely be on the lookout for this game. We'll have a full review for you soon.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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