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Nervous Brickdown

Score: 91%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Arkedo
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

I have to start this by saying that usually I don't like Breakout type games. So given that, Nervous Brickdown had a longer way to go than most games do to prove to me that it's a good game. When I first loaded it up, the game show style backgrounds and music caught my attention. The colors are bright, the game options are lit up with stage lights, but instead of distracting me from the game, it just made me curious to play it. The background music for the main screen also sounds like something you would hear on a game show, very upbeat and bouncy.

Each level has a different color scheme and even a totally different artistic feel. The background music also changes with each level. Each time I kept expecting something about it to annoy me, some background that was just boring, or some music that put me to sleep, but every time I was pleasantly surprised. With every different world, the colors and music matched the world that I was playing. Each time, I was looking forward to seeing what the next world would bring.


Gameplay:

When you start Nervous Brickdown, you are presented with five choices. Shuffle randomly chooses any board that you have unlocked for you to play. When you beat it, it'll pick another random board, could be from the same world, could be from a different one. Shuffle just keeps cycling through boards until you decide to quit or until you run out of hearts. There is no continue option in Shuffle, but then why would you need one, since it doesn't keep score of how many boards you've passed or anything like that.

Arcade is the main game in Nervous Brickdown. You start out with the choice of two worlds to play in and five hearts. At the beginning of the world, you'll be given a very brief description of how you can move the paddle in this world and what you need to do to earn the bonuses. Each time the ball gets past your paddle, you lose a heart. When you run out of hearts, you die. After every three boards, you hit a checkpoint where the game autosaves. This autosave gives you a point to go back to after you've died, so that you don't have to start the whole world over. At any time, you can go back and play any of the previous boards from any world.

Multi is another of the options. Multi lets two people play off of a single cartridge. Each player has the same thing on their screens, and they're both controlling the paddle. There's two colors of blocks on the screen, when the ball hits a yellow brick, the paddle turns yellow and one player can move the paddle. When it hits a blue brick, the ball turns blue, and the other player can move the paddle. Honestly, it's about as boring as it sounds. Nervous Brickdown isn't a great multiplayer game in my opinion.

The Bonus option lets you see all of the bonuses that you've acquired for the medals that you've gotten. When you get a medal for every board in a world, you unlock the music for that world, and you can play it in the Bonus area. Finally, the Options choice lets you configure the game language, erase your data (there's only one save file available), and view the game's credits.


Difficulty:

Nervous Brickdown is a progressively difficult game. The first board of the first world is the easiest board that you will play. As you beat each world, you'll unlock a new world to play, and each new world is more difficult than the next. If you manage to pass all of the ten worlds with nine boards and a boss on each world, you still have the challenge of getting the medal on each board. Given that each world has different options and ways to play, it gets difficult sometimes to keep up with what you need to do and when.

Nervous Brickdown does make it easier on you if you are persistent, though. As you play, you earn points. For each world, it keeps a running total of those points and how far you are from the next unlock feature. The first one it gives you is a bonus heart, so you have six available instead of only five. After you unlock the bonus heart, you'll start on the blow feature. This feature allows you to blow into the mic to change the course of the ball. Personally, I found the blow feature to be integral in passing some of the harder boards!


Game Mechanics:

So does anyone really not know how to play this type of game? Ever since Pong came out in 1972 (before so many of us were even born!), the concept of bouncing a ball off of a paddle has been a familiar idea. Nervous Brickdown works the exact same way, with a few creative changes. Each world has its own variation of how to play. Some levels, you can move the paddle all over the screen, others you're limited to moving it left and right along the bottom of the screen. To move the paddle, tap the stylus on it and drag to wherever you want to move it to. The goal, of course, is to keep the ball in the air by making sure the ball always bounces off of the paddle instead of letting it get past you. Sounds simple, right? Well, it's not so simple. To get the bonuses, you often have to do things like move the stylus around to catch ink, and then fill in scribbles on the board. Quite often, you'll find yourself worrying so much about obtaining the bonuses, or dodging enemy fire that you forget that you also have to watch out for the ball!

When I started this game and realized what type of game it was, I was positive that I was not going to like it, that I would put it on the shelf after I finished and never pick it up again. Now I find that the opposite is true. I've ended up playing Nervous Brickdown instead of other puzzle games simply because it's just plain fun.


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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