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Breakout

Score: 70%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Hasbro Interactive
Developer: Supersonic Software
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Classic/Retro/ Family

Graphics & Sound:

Breakout is, graphically, decidedly simple. The environments are generally bright and colorful, but they donít have much detail. The playing field, understandably, canít have a lot of graphical clutter, but even the edges feel a little devoid of feeling. Itís not terrible, but the game feels a little, well, empty. Admittedly, thereís only so much you can do with anthropomorphized paddles and boulders and whatnot, but it still fails to impress. And the font used in the game has to take credit for being one of the worst Iíve ever seen in a game.

The same could be said about the gameís sound. The music is strictly mediocre, the sound effects are middling to nonexistent (ooo! Blocks breaking!), and thereís no voice acting to speak of. This is definitely not a game youíre going to want to pump through your stereo system to get the full effect -- its aural pleasures are, well, not that pleasurable. Thereís nothing particularly offensive here, mind you, but thereís nothing that youíll take away with you either.


Gameplay:

Much the same can be said for the game itself. While itís mildly entertaining for a little while, some of the non-block-busting stages are aggravating as all get-out, and the game just doesnít pack enough oomph into the package. As a remake, Breakout comes up a little short.

You play as a paddle-thing, out to rescue his girlfriend and friends from the evil paddle-thing, and doing so by breaking blocks with a ball. Whatever. For the most part, Breakout sticks to variations on the classic theme. Some levels are out-and-out block busting. Others have a few more details to them -- having to get the ball to a certain location, or hitting blocks without missing, or even a Space Invaders-style scene. There are also power-ups that do everything from widening your paddle to multi-ball to shrinking your paddle. For the most part, these types of levels are entertaining, but theyíre nothing spectacular. Thereís no level thatíll make you sit up and go, ďWow, this is a really good twist on the Breakout theme.Ē Some come close -- shepherding is entertaining, to be sure -- but as a whole, itís not spectacular.

Considerably worse than ďnot spectacularĒ are most of the mini-games scattered throughout Breakout. There are chase scenes, where you must maneuver to pick up rocks to throw at someone chasing you, and my least personal favorite, a variation on Motos where you must knock ducks off of a raft. The former is rote, the latter is damn near impossible, and both are unfun. These are the sorts of ďimprovementĒ in remakes of games that should have been left on the cutting-room floor, so to speak. Not that the core gameplay is that much fun, mind you, but these little segues are even less so.

Breakout sports a few modes to liven things up, but they fail to impress. You can go back and retry stages you didnít do well on, but youíre more likely to break out your copy of Superman 64 instead. You can play the game multiplayer, but when I tried a two-player game and let the second player just sit there, it ended up doing just as well as I did. You know thereís a problem with the game modes. Neither of them offers as much entertainment as the single-player missions, and thatís not saying a whole lot.


Difficulty:

Most of the standard levels are quite easy, and I lost a ball every third or fourth level, perhaps. The segues, on the other hand, are fair to middling impossible, and youíll find yourself losing men and rank left and right as you try to beat them. Many people would simply stop, disgusted, once they got to the duck level, and I wouldnít blame them -- itís way too hard for this sort of family game. Other levels will have you beating them within ten seconds of starting them. This sort of over-the-map difficulty makes for a poor experience.

Game Mechanics:

You can control the paddle with mice, the keyboard, or joysticks. The mouse feels the most comfortable, mimicking the smooth flow of the paddle better than any other one. You can have the paddle itself set to deflect at angles depending on either the English put on the ball or where it hits the paddle, which is nice when you want to get the ball out of a crappy bounce-pattern. And you can control the tilt of the paddle itself to help get straggling blocks. But the menu system is exceedingly twitchy with the mouse, and the game itself is so rote as to almost have no mechanics. The mini-games are simply atrocious as well -- chase angles where you run towards the screen too close to see whatís coming up are not cool.

While Breakout offers some retro fun for a little while as you bust bricks wide with a ball and a paddle, it quickly gets mired in repetitive gameplay, shoddy segues, and boring design. Unless youíve got to have every remake of classic games, or collect ball-and-paddle titles, chances are youíll want to stay away from Breakout. Itís as vapid as most romantic comedies, and the romance is a hundred times more disturbing.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 95/98, Pentium 200 MHz or Higher, 2 MB SVGA Graphics Card, 50 MB, 4X or Faster, 32 MB, DirectX 7.0
 

Test System:



AMD K6-III 450 running Windows 98, 256MB RAM, Creative Sound Blaster Live! Sound Card, Creative TNT2 Ultra w/ 32MB RAM, 6x24 DVD-ROM

Windows Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 Windows Civilization: Call to Power

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated