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Genre: Brick Breaker
Players: 1-4

EU Release: 2016-09-15 Price: £4.49/4,99€
NA Release: 2016-09-15 Price: $4.99

Tested: PAL version (EU)

Review: BRICK BREAKER (PAL Region) (Wii U eShop) WiiUDS_BrickBreaker_01_mediaplayer_large

The brick breaker genre got really popular when Taito released Arkanoid in 1986 in the arcades and on every home computer and video game system available. It was so popular that even Nintendo made their own Game Boy versions (the basic Alleyway was a launch title and the much more advanced Kirby's Block Ball was later created for the Super Game Boy.) If you don't know a brick breaker type of game let me explain it for you in short: Break all the bricks in the level with a ball. For that you need to move a floating platform/ship at the bottom of the screen to the left and right. Don't let the ball pass, hit it back into the playing field or you lose a life.

With Tetraminos two weeks ago, Sanuk Games seems to be on a roll picking up classics from the 80s to give them their own little twist, but trying to be as close to the original as possible in terms of gameplay. However, this time there are plenty of clones already on both the Wii U eShop and the Wii Shop Channel (even an enhanced version of the original, Arkanoid Plus!, is available) so I believe the generically called Brick Breaker would stand out better if it did more of its own thing instead of copying too much from Arkanoid. For instance, it takes almost all the power-ups from the original: you can grow the size of your ship, you can transform the ball into a meteor that crushes everything, you can get lasers and shoot at blocks, etc. Nothing new to find in that department. Fortunately it does a few of its own things and it does them right for the most part.

Review: BRICK BREAKER (PAL Region) (Wii U eShop) WiiUDS_BrickBreaker_04_mediaplayer_large

Brick Breaker has 100 stages for the singleplayer mode and 3 different Multiplayer modes for up to 4 players. In terms of content there is absolutely nothing to complain about, considering it costs only 4,99. The 100 singleplayer stages take a good while to beat. Yes, it starts a little slow with the first stages being fairly basic and lacking power-ups. But soon enough blocks move around the playing field in different patterns and shapes and all the power-ups come into play. Another innovation (I know other brick breaker games have done the same thing, but here it's done pretty good): The colors of the bricks show how much hits they need before they break. Blue blocks disappear after 1 hit, green blocks turn blue if hit, yellow blocks turn green if hit, and so on. It's pretty intuitive and sets it apart from the original where different colors didn't mean anything. If beating stages isn't enough, you have an optional extra challenge: reaching 3 stars in each level. For that you have to get a good score. Keep the ball in the air and break several bricks in a combo. As long as you don't (have to) touch the ball every brick adds to the score multiplier. Each stage has a local top 10 leaderboard in where you can put in your initials. I think the developers should have put a   little more effort into the name entry screen though, because it opens up the Wii U text keyboard which not only clashes with the rest of the game's design, it also allows you to type in more than 3 letters but only the first 3 letters will be shown in the highscore list.

Review: BRICK BREAKER (PAL Region) (Wii U eShop) WiiUDS_BrickBreaker_05_mediaplayer_large

The multiplayer is pretty neat. There's a Pong variant (who scores the most goals?), a brick breaker variant (who is the fastest to break all the bricks and get to the core?), and a defense mode (select how many lines of bricks the players have behind their back and try to get the ball through the other players bricks). All these games can also be played in 2 vs 2 teams. It's all pretty fun, but I wish you could play the 100 single player stages in co-op with a second player.

As good as it may sound, I found three issues within the game: First, the menus and soundtrack and overall flashy modern design is ripped off straight from Sanuk Games earlier Wii U eShop game Tetraminos. It almost feels as if both games were part of the same "classics collection"  but were cut into separate games at one point in development. It could also be laziness or a production-cost reduction strategy on the developers part reusing many of the assets. At least it's odd having all of the music from Tetraminos playing in this game. If those two games were bundled together, no problem, but standing on their own it doesn't feel right. Second, the game has a problem with extreme slowdown whenever you use the meteor ball power-up. When you break a block with a normal ball, it disappears in a bunch of glowing pixels and those pixels fly up to the top of the screen and into the score counter. It's a fine little detail. But when you break ten or twenty blocks in a row with a meteor ball, you'll get too many glowing pixels flying around and the game stutters down to 2 frames per second and sometimes even a total halt for 1-2 seconds. The problem is that the game doesn't stop even though the picture stopped. In these 1-2 seconds you have to play blind, and then the picture continues moving.  Obviously many balls will drop down the gutter, but on the upside you always start a level with 5 lives so dropping a ball because of bad framerate isn't going to be a gamebreaking issue. Third: Loading times. When selecting a mode and before getting into the game, the game loads for about 10-15 seconds. Frankly, a game that ran in 1986 with no loading times should run on a modern console even faster or at least just as fast. Enough said!

Review: BRICK BREAKER (PAL Region) (Wii U eShop) WiiUDS_BrickBreaker_06_mediaplayer_large

Brick Breaker is a decent Arkanoid-inspired arcade game with great content for single- and good content for multiplayer. Personally I wish it would do more of its own thing as it's never steering away far enough from the original. Also, reusing the soundtrack from another game devalues this game slightly and occasional heavy slowdown makes evident that under its shiny surface there's a bit of a struggle with the game engine. If you like the simple nature of brick breaking games this will entertain you for a while, but if you need the genre to innovate and surprise there are other options on Wii U.


Written by SKTTR, 17th September 2016
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on September 18th 2016, 12:25 pmTowafan7
This sounds quite fun! Thanks for posting all of these reviews dude! I might postpone my review of Dragon Fantasy Book II: The Black Tome of Ice until tomorrow or Tuesday to spread-out the new content rather than releasing it all on the same day. Wink
on September 20th 2016, 11:43 amDigiDestined
Nice review @SKTTR! =)
Rena Ryuugu Fanboy
on September 21st 2016, 10:52 amRena Ryuugu Fanboy
@SKTTR Should I get this or pay $1 more to get Arkanoid Plus through Wii mode?
on September 21st 2016, 2:02 pmSKTTR
@Rena Ryuguu Fanboy

I'd always say go for the original first and if you're done with it and still want more you can check out one of the clones (or the Arkanoid Plus! DLC). They all have their up & downsides.

I rated Arkanoid Plus! a 7/10 back then, if that helps.
If you need to know anything in particular let me know.

My personal favourite Arkanoid-clone is Kirby's Block Ball on the (Super) Game Boy. I think it's out on the 3DS Virtual Console.
on September 21st 2016, 3:14 pmBlueRangerJack
@SKTTR I have fond memories of playing Kirby's Block Ball back in the day, often spending hours trying to progress through each stage. It's no wonder I got it again on my 3DS after it was added to the eShop! Happy
Retro Gamer
on September 22nd 2016, 12:02 amRetro Gamer
@GeekyGamerZack Is that what Kirby's Ghost Trap is titled in Europe?
on September 23rd 2016, 5:56 amSKTTR
@Retro Gamer:

No, Kirby's Ghost Trap (Kirby's Avalanche in the US) is a Puyo Puyo game, not a brick breaker / Arkanoid game.
on September 24th 2016, 11:51 pmTowafan7
@Retro Gamer Kirby's Block Ball is an Arkanoid styled game afaik, but Kirby's Avalanche is a Puyo Puyo clone. A good example of another Puyu Puyo game that was actually localized would be Dr. Robotnick's Mean Bean Machine which was released on the Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, and Sega GENESIS. Wink
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